If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably remember how I craved rocks and sand while pregnant with my last two babies. In fact, my daughter Leyna’s middle name- Lorelei- is also the name of a large rock on the Rhine river in Germany, and that was totally intentional. After reading this piece Julie Forbes wrote for us today, I wonder if cutting back my dairy while pregnant will help this time?
I remember being at the playground with my kids when my husband called. He was deployed in Afghanistan, so I took his phone calls any time, any where… even if I was busy chasing around two toddlers at the playground.
I had the phone up against my ear as I was pushing my 3-year old on the swing and keeping my eye on my then-14-month old daughter.
She was playing in the sand and picked up a huge handful and put it in her mouth.
“Scarlet, yucky. Don’t put the sand in your mouth,” I yelled to her.
“Does she do that often?” my husband asked through the phone.
“What? Put sand in her mouth? Yes, rocks, sand, dirt. You name it, she eats it,” I told him.
“You might want to get her checked for an iron deficiency,” he told me.
“An iron deficiency? Why, like she’s one of those pregnant ladies who eats sand?” I asked him.
I knew about pica because Jill had blogged about it. And my husband is a doctor, so I thought he probably knew what he was talking about, but I didn’t give it too much more thought. At my daughter’s next well-visit, I mentioned her sand-rock-dirt eating habit to her pediatrician. She said she thought it was probably just normal toddler behavior, but we might as well have it checked out.
We had to get blood drawn from her tiny little arm, which was not fun. But, it gave us the answers we needed. The test results came back, and sure enough, she had an iron deficiency.
Quite honestly, I was shocked. Because I am a vegetarian, and pretty much raise my children on a vegetarian diet, I had done a lot of research to make sure they were getting their proper nutrients. I follow the Super Baby Food diet which consists of feeding your children iron-rich foods (spinach, broccoli, egg yolk, etc.) followed by a vitamin C fruit. The vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron. I also knew never to give milk to my kids while feeding them iron-rich foods because the calcium in milk blocks the absorption of iron. What I didn’t know was that I also needed to be monitoring the amount of milk she was drinking throughout the course of the day.
I know there’s a belief out there that cow’s milk is not good for you. Some people say it isn’t natural, it’s mucusy, etc. That’s not what this post is about.
In our family, we stick by the old adage that milk does a body good. And, because I’ve always been blessed with babies who sleep through the night, I’ve been afraid to tinker with what works. So, when my children turn one, and I switch them from breastmilk to cow’s milk, I have always given them the same amount of cow’s milk as I was giving them breastmilk. That meant, my 1 year old was drinking four 8-oz bottles of milk a day. That’s 32 ounces of milk, which I now know is way too much.
Recent studies have shown that children should be drinking no more than 24 ozs of milk a day because of exactly what happened to Scarlet (and 16 ozs of milk is ideal). When you are drinking too much milk, the milk’s calcium prevents the body from absorbing iron. And, an iron deficiency develops. And, in some cases, your body starts craving iron so badly, you try to find it in rocks, sand and dirt.
Fortunately, there was an easy fix. Because my daughter eats cheese like I do (when there’s a bottle of wine in front of me), and lots of yogurt daily, I cut her milk intake back to one 8 oz bottle a day, and supplemented her diet with iron drops. A month later, we had her iron checked again, and it was at normal levels.
Now the sand from the playground ends up in the car, in our rugs, in the bathtub, and in every other crevice known to mom… but not in my daughter’s mouth.