Last update July 15, 2017

Maternal Anemia

Very Low Risk

Safe. Compatible. Minimal risk for breastfeeding and infant.

There is a high prevalence of nutritional anemia in breastfeeding mothers (Shashiraj 2006), which rises to 47% in mothers of low socioeconomic status (Bodnar 2001).

During gestation and breastfeeding there is iron transfer from mother to child that tends to avoid both iron-mediated infection and oxidative stress as well as the potential risk of maternal and infant iron deficiency (Miller 2016). Maternal anemia must be prevented and treated, but neither the disease nor its treatment contraindicate breastfeeding.

Loss of blood during labor is an important factor in postpartum anemia (Chan 2001). Pregnancy during breastfeeding increases the risk of anemia (Shaaban 2015). In contrast, prolonged breastfeeding is a protective factor for anemia in breastfeeding mothers (Lakew 2015).

Iron deficiency anemia increases the risk of postpartum depression (Sheikh 2015) and is a risk factor for early cessation of breastfeeding (Rioux 2006), possibly because of (actual or not) insufficient milk (Henly 1995).

According to some authors, there is a correlation between maternal hemoglobin and that of infants who are exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months of life (Marques 2016, Teixeira 2010). Therefore, it is necessary to prevent preconception anemia during pregnancy and breastfeeding (Teixeira 2010).
When maternal anemia is associated with prolonged breastfeeding there is a greater risk of anemia in the infant in developing countries (Meinzen 2006).

But other studies have shown that iron and lactoferrin levels in milk are independent of maternal plasma iron and hemoglobin levels (Shashiraj 2006, Murray 1978) and that exclusively breastfed infants have normal plasma iron levels irrespective of the mother’s iron status (Murray 1978).

In addition, administering iron to breastfeeding mothers has no effect on serum levels of iron and ferritin in mothers and infants (Breymann 2007, Baykan 2006) and may have a negative effect on plasma copper and milk levels (Mello 2013).

Maternal pernicious anemia due to lack of absorption of vitamin B12 or deficient diets such as vegans (see specific information) can lead to anemia and serious physical and / or neurological symptoms in the infant (Lücke 2007, Weiss 2004, Sklar 1986).

See below the information of these related products:

  • Iron Dextran ( Safe. Compatible. Minimal risk for breastfeeding and infant.)
  • Iron Salts ( Safe. Compatible. Minimal risk for breastfeeding and infant.)
  • Vegetarian Diets (Possibly safe. Probably compatible. Mild risk possible. Follow up recommended. Read the Comment.)
  • Vitamin B12 Substances ( Safe. Compatible. Minimal risk for breastfeeding and infant.)

Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM team of health professionals, and are based on updated scientific publications. It is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your doctor but to compound it. The pharmaceutical industry contraindicates breastfeeding, mistakenly and without scientific reasons, in most of the drug data sheets.

Jose Maria Paricio, Founder & President of APILAM/e-Lactancia

Your contribution is essential for this service to continue to exist. We need the generosity of people like you who believe in the benefits of breastfeeding.

Thank you for helping to protect and promote breastfeeding.

José María Paricio, founder of e-lactancia.


Maternal Anemia belongs to this group or family:


  1. Marques Rde F, Taddei JA, Konstantyner T, Marques AC, Braga JA. Correlation between hemoglobin levels of mothers and children on exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2016 Abstract
  2. Miller EM. The reproductive ecology of iron in women. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2016 Abstract
  3. Shaaban OM, Abbas AM, Abdel Hafiz HA, Abdelrahman AS, Rashwan M, Othman ER. Effect of pregnancy-lactation overlap on the current pregnancy outcome in women with substandard nutrition: a prospective cohort study. Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2015 Dec 28;7(4):213-221. Abstract Full text (link to original source)
  4. Sheikh M, Hantoushzadeh S, Shariat M, Farahani Z, Ebrahiminasab O. The efficacy of early iron supplementation on postpartum depression, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr. 2015 Abstract
  5. Lakew Y, Biadgilign S, Haile D. Anaemia prevalence and associated factors among lactating mothers in Ethiopia: evidence from the 2005 and 2011 demographic and health surveys. BMJ Open. 2015 Abstract
  6. Mello-Neto J, Rondó PH, Oshiiwa M, Morgano MA, Zacari CZ, dos Santos ML. Iron supplementation in pregnancy and breastfeeding and iron, copper and zinc status of lactating women from a human milk bank. J Trop Pediatr. 2013 Abstract
  7. Teixeira Mde L, Lira PI, Coutinho SB, Eickmann SH, Lima MC. Influence of breastfeeding type and maternal anemia on hemoglobin concentration in 6-month-old infants. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2010 Abstract
  8. Breymann C, von Seefried B, Stahel M, Geisser P, Canclini C. Milk iron content in breast-feeding mothers after administration of intravenous iron sucrose complex. J Perinat Med. 2007 Abstract
  9. Lücke T, Korenke GC, Poggenburg I, Bentele KH, Das AM, Hartmann H. [Maternal vitamin B12 deficiency: cause for neurological symptoms in infancy]. Z Geburtshilfe Neonatol. 2007 Abstract
  10. Rioux FM, Savoie N, Allard J. Is there a link between postpartum anemia and discontinuation of breastfeeding? Can J Diet Pract Res. 2006 Abstract
  11. Meinzen-Derr JK, Guerrero ML, Altaye M, Ortega-Gallegos H, Ruiz-Palacios GM, Morrow AL. Risk of infant anemia is associated with exclusive breast-feeding and maternal anemia in a Mexican cohort. J Nutr. 2006 Abstract
  12. Shashiraj, Faridi MM, Singh O, Rusia U. Mother's iron status, breastmilk iron and lactoferrin--are they related? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Abstract
  13. Baykan A, Yalçin SS, Yurdakök K. Does maternal iron supplementation during the lactation period affect iron status of exclusively breast-fed infants? Turk J Pediatr. 2006 Abstract
  14. Weiss R, Fogelman Y, Bennett M. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in an infant associated with a maternal deficiency and a strict vegetarian diet. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2004 Abstract
  15. Chan SM, Nelson EA, Leung SS, Li CY. Postnatal iron status of Hong Kong Chinese women in a longitudinal study of maternal nutrition. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Abstract
  16. Bodnar LM, Scanlon KS, Freedman DS, Siega-Riz AM, Cogswell ME. High prevalence of postpartum anemia among low-income women in the United States. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Abstract
  17. Henly SJ, Anderson CM, Avery MD, Hills-Bonczyk SG, Potter S, Duckett LJ. Anemia and insufficient milk in first-time mothers. Birth. 1995 Abstract
  18. Monfort-Gouraud M, Bongiorno A, Le Gall MA, Badoual J. [Severe megaloblastic anemia in child breast fed by a vegetarian mother]. Ann Pediatr (Paris). 1993 Abstract
  19. Sklar R. Nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency in a breast-fed infant of a vegan-diet mother. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1986 Abstract
  20. Murray MJ, Murray AB, Murray NJ, Murray MB. The effect of iron status of Nigerien mothers on that of their infants at birth and 6 months, and on the concentration of Fe in breast milk. Br J Nutr. 1978 Abstract

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