There is a controversial debate around this paper, which states that breastfed infants face the danger of iron deficiency if they are not supplemented with other food or pills early enough.

Early means that iron deficiency is a danger even before 6 months, which is the WHO-recommended duration of breastfeeding.

Critics of the study say that it may be supported by the food lobby, and that iron in breastmilk can be absorbed much more easily, than iron from food or supplements.

Is there more evidence, more studies?

  • Although this paper doesn't look like outright rubbish (they had 76 test subjects which is not as bad as 15 or 20 like in some "studies"). This is not a big number, yet its far from ideal number of several thousand test subjects. IMHO the evolution cannot be that wrong. I personally believe (and I don't have evidence to it) that the breast milk wouldn't have enough iron only if a mother was anemic herself (and women are prone to anemy). I couldn't read the whole paper, but i would like to see the demography of the test subjects and their mothers: age, income etc. This factors could mean a lot.
    – user2361
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


The WHO recommended duration of breastfeeding is not six months, but a minimum of six months. The paper you link to does not say whether the breastfeeding mothers had low serum iron and ferritin or not. Low serum iron and ferritin will certainly result in low breastmilk iron.

To answer your question: no, iron deficiency anemia "per se" is not a serious threat to breastfed infants. (by serious I mean a potentially lethal condition).

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