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Constipation and Iron
Q: I've been feeding my two-month-old baby Enfamil with iron. He has been constipated a lot. Should I switch him to the low-iron formula?
A: No, you should not switch to a low-iron formula. While it is true that large doses of iron can cause constipation, the iron that is in infant formulas normally does not cause constipation. Studies confirm that when infants are given iron-fortified formula and then changed to low-iron formula, there is no difference in the frequency or hardness of the stools.
Another reason not to switch is that iron is important for your baby's nutrition and health. Babies who don't get enough iron can become anemic (low blood count), which is thought to contribute to slower neurological development in children.
If your baby is having hard stools, it's fine to give him a small amount of water each day. One ounce of plain water, once or twice daily, should help to make the stools softer. Be sure not to give too much plain water, and if the problem persists you should talk to your baby's doctor or nurse, to discuss other remedies.
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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.