To assess associations between breastfeeding and iron status at 9 months of age in 2 samples of Chinese infants.
Associations between feeding at 9 months of age (breastfed as sole milk source, mixed fed, or formula fed) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA), iron deficiency, and iron sufficiency were determined in infants from Zhejiang (n = 142) and Hebei (n = 813) provinces. Iron deficiency was defined as body iron < 0 mg/kg, and IDA as iron deficiency + hemoglobin < 110 g/L. Multiple logistic regression assessed associations between feeding pattern and iron status.
Breastfeeding was associated with iron status (P < .001). In Zhejiang, 27.5% of breastfed infants had IDA compared with 0% of formula-fed infants. The odds of iron deficiency/IDA were increased in breastfed and mixed-fed infants compared with formula-fed infants: breastfed vs formula-fed OR, 28.8 (95% CI, 3.7-226.4) and mixed-fed vs formula-fed OR, 11.0 (95% CI, 1.2-103.2). In Hebei, 44.0% of breastfed infants had IDA compared with 2.8% of formula-fed infants. With covariable adjustment, odds of IDA were increased in breastfed and mixed-fed groups: breastfed vs formula-fed OR, 78.8 (95% CI, 27.2-228.1) and mixed-fed vs formula-fed OR, 21.0 (95% CI, 7.3-60.9).
In both cohorts, the odds of iron deficiency/IDA at 9 months of age were increased in breastfed and mixed-fed infants, and iron deficiency/IDA was common. Although the benefits of breastfeeding are indisputable, these findings add to the evidence that breastfeeding in later infancy identifies infants at risk for iron deficiency/IDA in many settings. Protocols for detecting and preventing iron deficiency/IDA in breastfed infants are needed.