The normal zinc and iron content of mother’s milk are minimally altered by nutritional factors of the mother’s diet. Exclusive breastfeeding is considered adequate in normal term births for the first six months of life, but the health of the infant may alter the need for minerals. The iron and zinc needs of children are increased by prematurity, low birth weight or illness. Fifty percent of all childhood deaths are related to malnutrition.
Premature infants are not born with normal supplies of iron and zinc which usually accumulate rapidly during the third trimester of the pregnancy. Iron supplementation is recommended at the age of 2 months for premature infants. Not all infant formulas contain adequate zinc and iron for premature infants.
The infants of diabetic mothers have low brain stores of iron and zinc, and low levels of iron transfer protein (ferritin). Memory deficits have been demonstrated in the children of diabetic mothers.
Small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infants are frequently zinc deficient. Supplementation of breastfed SGA infants with zinc during the first year of life has been shown to significantly reduce illness and mortality in these children.
Several authors have concluded that the average 11-month-old child should get over 90% of its iron and zinc from complementary feeding. This benefits neurological development, body growth and immune functioning. Plant based diets are low in zinc and meats are high in zinc. Plant based diets may be insufficient in childhood illnesses and the author’s present reasons to use complementary feeding of high zinc meat in children from six months to 1 year.
CONCLUSION: Exclusive infant breastfeeding for the first six months of life followed by complementary feeding will reduce infant morbidity and mortality. Iron and zinc intake are important in infants who are ill or small-for-gestational-age. The authors discuss complementary feeding with meat in older children.
NOTE: Read about the effect of lactoferrin from mother’s milk.
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