"There isn't very much iron in breast milk, though breast milk does offer all kinds of advantages, particularly in the first year," Maguire said. "Children who breast-feed longer may not be eating as many complementary foods."
"This is something that parents can consider -- that there's a small but detectable risk of iron deficiency in children breast-fed past one year," he said. "These children may potentially benefit from a diet full of wholesome, iron-containing foods."
Iron-rich foods include those that are fortified with iron, such as cereals; lean beef, lamb and duck; oysters, shrimp, clams and sardines; beans and peas, such as lentils, chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans and lima beans; and spinach and turnip greens, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
One doctor doubts the new study will change clinical practice.
"This was an interesting preliminary study, but from the standpoint of a practicing physician, there's not much I would change in practice," said Dr. Ruby Roy, a pediatrician at LaRabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, who will still recommend breast-feeding to new mothers.
"Mom's iron passes to baby very efficiently until the child is a little older, and the iron needs increase. I think all toddlers are at risk of iron deficiency," she said, adding that parents could encourage their children to eat more iron-rich foods. Pediatricians also should talk to parents about what foods are good sources of iron, she said.
Learn more about the benefits of breast-feeding from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
SOURCES: Jonathon Maguire, M.D., pediatrician and scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, Canada; Ruby Roy, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, and chronic disease, physician,
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