Iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) typically occur in developing countries. Notably, ID and IDA can affect an infant’s emotion, cognition, and development. Breast milk is considered the best food for infants. However, recent studies have indicated that breastfeeding for more than six months increases the risk of ID. This study investigated the prevalence of ID and IDA, as well as the association between feeding type and iron nutritional status in northern Taiwan. A cross-sectional study was conducted on infants who returned to the well-baby clinic for routine examination from October 2012 to January 2014. Overall, 509 infants aged 1–12 months completed the iron nutritional status analysis, anthropometric measurement, and dietary intake assessment, including milk and complementary foods. The results revealed that 49 (10%) and 21 (4%) infants in their first year of life had ID and IDA, respectively, based on the World Health Organization criteria. Breastfed infants had a higher prevalence rate of ID and IDA than mixed-fed and formula-fed infants (p
< 0.001). Regarding biomarkers of iron status, plasma hemoglobin (Hb), ferritin, and transferrin saturation (%) levels were significantly lower in ID and IDA groups. The prevalence of ID and IDA were 3.7% and 2.7%, respectively, in infants under six months of age, but increased to 20.4% and 6.6%, respectively, in infants above six months of age. The healthy group had a higher total iron intake than ID and IDA groups, mainly derived from infant formula. The total dietary iron intake was positively correlated with infants’ Hb levels. Compared with formula-fed infants, the logistic regression revealed that the odds ratio for ID was 2.157 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.369–3.399) and that for IDA was 4.196 (95% CI: 1.780–9.887) among breastfed infants (p
< 0.001) after adjusted for all confounding factors (including gestational week, birthweight, sex, body weight percentile, body length percentile, age of infants, mothers’ BMI, gestational weight gain, education level, and hemoglobin level before delivery). In conclusion, our results determined that breastfeeding was associated with an increased the prevalence of ID and/or IDA, especially in infants above six months. This suggests that mothers who prolonged breastfeed after six months could provide high-quality iron-rich foods to reduce the prevalence of ID and IDA.
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