Vol. 11, No. 3, 2005 Page 3


New mothers with even mild iron deficiency are more negative toward their babies and less sensitive to their cues during critical months of infant development and mother-infant bonding, according to new research. The study also identified delays in the infants of iron-deficient mothers.

E. M. Perez and colleagues studied 64 South African mothers identified as mildly iron deficient and 31 with good iron status. Ten weeks after delivering their babies, half of the iron-deficient women began taking iron supplements, while the other half did not. The researchers observed the women's interactions with their infants before administering the supplements, and again when the infants were 9 months old.

"At baseline," the researchers say, "anemic mothers tended to be less responsive to, and more controlling of, their infants." They also appeared more bored or distant, and tended to interfere inappropriately with their babies' play experiences.

"Earlier research had shown that anemic women may experience post-partum depression and that women with moderate iron deficiency have a slowdown in thinking and memory," study coauthor Laura Murray-Kolb says. "Our new results suggest that the effects of mild iron deficiency, which are easily correctable with supplements, can disrupt the solid foundation that is established by healthy mother/infant interactions."

The researchers also found that infants of the iron-deficient mothers exhibited delays in hand-eye movement and overall development that did not resolve when the mothers received supplements.


"Maternal iron deficiency disrupts mother/child interaction," news release, Penn State, April 5, 2005, and "Mother-infant interactions and infant development are altered by maternal iron deficiency anemia," E. M. Perez, M. K. Hendricks, J. L. Beard, L. E. Murray-Kolb, A. Berg, M. Tomlinson, J. Irlam, W. Isaacs, T. Njengele, A. Sive, and L. Vernon-Feagans, Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 135, No. 4, April 2005, 850-55. Address: John L. Beard, jbeard@psu.edu.

Return to:
[Author Directory] [Front Page] [Issue Index] [Subject Index] [Title Index]