Objective: To investigate the relationship between iron status in infancy and type of milk and weaning solids consumed.
Design: An observational cohort study.
Setting: 928 term infants from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in 1993-94.
Methods: Haemoglobin and ferritin concentrations at 8 and 12 months were assessed in relation to type and quantity of milk intake at 8 months.
Results: By WHO criteria, 22.7% of the infants were anaemic at 8 months and 18.1% at 12 months. More breast--than formula-fed infants were anaemic at 8 and 12 months. Cows' milk as the main drink was associated with increased anaemia at 12 months and low ferritin at 8 and 12 months. No association was found between any nutrients and haemoglobin concentrations. Protein and non-haem iron intakes were positively associated with ferritin concentrations and calcium intake negatively. This effect was more marked in infants being fed cows' milk. More than 25% of infants in the breast milk and cows' milk groups and 41% of infants having >6 breast feeds per day had iron intakes below the lower reference nutrient intake. Feeding cows' milk or formula above 600 ml or >6 breast feeds per day was associated with lower intakes of solids.
Conclusions: Both breast and cows' milk feeding were associated with higher levels of anaemia. Satisfactory iron intake from solids in later infancy is more likely if formula intake is <600 ml per day and breast feeds are limited to <6 feeds per day. Cows' milk should be strongly discouraged as a main drink before 12 months.