Iron Nutriture of the Fetus, Neonate, Infant, and Child

Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;71 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):8-14. doi: 10.1159/000481447. Epub 2017 Dec 22.


Iron is a key nutrient and is essential for the developing fetus, neonate, infant, and child. Iron requirements are high during early stages of life because it is critically important for the production of new red blood cells and muscle cells as well as brain development. Neonates, infants, and children obtain iron from dietary sources including breast milk (lactoferrin) and heme- and non-heme-containing foods. Iron deficiency (ID) is the most common micronutrient deficiency in children and pregnant women worldwide. ID and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) can affect growth and energy levels as well as motor and cognitive performance in the developing child. The fetus is completely dependent on maternal iron crossing through the placenta and, although it is generally well protected against deficiency at birth, ID in mothers can increase the risk of ID and IDA in their children as early as 4 months. This review will discuss the uses of iron, iron requirements, and the sources of iron from conception through childhood. In addition, it will describe the prevalence and clinical manifestations of ID and IDA in children and discuss recommendations for iron supplementation of children and pregnant women.

Keywords: Infants; Iron; Iron deficiency; Neonates; Nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iron / physiology*
  • Milk, Human
  • Mothers
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Pregnancy


  • Iron