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Medicine and Supplements

How do I give my 14-month old an iron supplement?  Whenever I try to give it to her, she just spits it out, and when I try to mix it into food or drink she refuses to take it then too.—N.K. 

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply:  When my boys were young, I had to give them fluoride supplements because we lived on a farm with well water.

My boys didn’t need to take iron supplements, but it’s not uncommon for children to become anemic and need more iron. Iron is necessary to make hemoglobin, which is the substance that carries oxygen through your blood to all the cells in your body. With insufficient iron, and therefore not enough hemoglobin, red blood cells become small and pale and they aren’t able to carry enough oxygen. This condition is called anemia.

When babies are in the womb, they store up iron from their mothers’ blood. This iron reserve usually lasts around six months. Around this time, pediatricians often check a baby’s iron level with a simple blood test. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, constipation, and brittle thin fingernails.

Sometimes doctors will recommend increasing the amount of iron in a child’s diet, such as by eating more red meat. It can also help to cook in cast iron cookware. But other times pediatricians might recommend giving the child iron supplements. The challenge then is getting the baby to take it!

I pretty much muscled the fluoride supplements into my sons. But I’ve heard of people who give their kids a small reward, such as a jelly bean or Hershey’s kiss for taking unpleasant tasting medicine or supplements.

Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, MSEH, a mom of three sons, family physician, and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.