A baby who has anemia does not have enough red blood cells (RBCs). The red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood and deliver it to the rest of the body.
Around 6 to 9 weeks after birth, every baby has a type of anemia called physiologic or normal anemia. Throughout our lives red blood cells get old and break down and our bodies make new red blood cells to replace them. Babies cannot make enough new red blood cells to replace the old ones until they are about 1 month old. Once a baby starts making new red blood cells, the red blood cell count gradually goes back to normal. Most babies do not have any symptoms from this natural process and do not need treatment.
Besides normal anemia, newborns can become anemic because of:
A baby who is anemic:
A baby’s red blood cells can be counted with a simple blood test.
Anemia is normal for newborns and does not need to be treated unless it causes a problem for the baby or the blood count drops too low.
Iron is needed to make red blood cells. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you give your baby iron drops or iron-fortified formula. Full-term babies may not need iron supplements until they are much older.
Many premature babies get anemic before their body can make red blood cells. They may need a transfusion of blood. A blood transfusion is a transfer of red blood cells from someone else (a donor) to the baby. The smaller a premature baby is, the more likely it is that the baby will need 1 or more blood transfusions in the first 2 months of life. Usually the blood is donated by volunteer donors. This is called blood bank blood. It may also be possible for family members to donate blood for the baby. This is called directed-donor blood.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Your baby may have constipation if you are giving iron supplements or iron-fortified formula. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about giving your baby pear juice or other natural treatments if your baby seems to be having trouble passing bowel movements or is having fewer bowel movements.
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.