The prevalence of anemia and iron deficiency is more common in breastfed infants than their mothers in Bhaktapur, Nepal
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background/Objectives: Iron deficiency anemia is a widespread public health problem, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Maternal iron status around and during pregnancy may influence infant iron status. We examined multiple biomarkers to determine the prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia among breastfed infants and explored its relationship with maternal and infant characteristics in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Subjects/Methods: In a cross-sectional survey, we randomly selected 500 mother–infant pairs from Bhaktapur municipality. Blood was analyzed for hemoglobin, ferritin, total iron-binding capacity, transferrin receptors and C-reactive protein. Results: The altitude-adjusted prevalence of anemia was 49% among infants 2–6-month-old (hemaglobin (Hb) <10.8 g/dl) and 72% among infants 7–12-month-old (Hb <11.3 g/dl). Iron deficiency anemia, defined as anemia and serum ferritin <20 or <12 μg/l, affected 9 and 26% of infants of these same age groups. Twenty percent of mothers had anemia (Hb <12.3 g/dl), but only one-fifth was explained by depletion of iron stores. Significant predictors of infant iron status and anemia were infant age, sex and duration of exclusive breastfeeding and maternal ferritin concentrations. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that iron supplementation in pregnancy is likely to have resulted in a low prevalence of postpartum anemia. The higher prevalence of anemia and iron deficiency among breastfed infants compared with their mothers suggests calls for intervention targeting newborns and infants.