Editorial: Am J Clin Nutr
Murray-Kolb LE, Beard JL
BACKGROUND: Iron deficiency is most commonly found in women of reproductive age and infants worldwide, but the influence of maternal iron deficiency on infant development is underexplored. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to examine the relation between maternal iron status and mother-child interactions in a randomized, double-blind, intervention trial conducted in South Africa. DESIGN: Women were recruited into the study from a health clinic at 6-8 wk postpartum and were classified as either iron-deficient anemic (IDA) or iron-sufficient after blood analysis. IDA mothers received iron supplements of 125 mg FeSO(4) (IDA-Fe; n = 34) or placebo (IDA-PL; n = 30) daily from 10 wk to 9 mo postpartum. The control group (n = 31) consisted of iron-sufficient mothers. Free-play mother-child interaction sessions were videotaped in the clinic at 10 wk (n = 80) and 9 mo (n = 66) postpartum and coded per the Emotional Availability Scales (4 maternal scales: sensitivity, structuring, nonintrusiveness, and nonhostility; 2 infant scales: responsiveness and involvement). RESULTS: At 10 wk, scores for maternal sensitivity and child responsiveness were significantly greater in the control group than in the IDA groups (P = 0.028 and 0.009, respectively). At 9 mo, the control and IDA-Fe groups no longer differed. These 2 groups scored significantly better on the maternal sensitivity, structuring, and nonhostility scales and on the child responsiveness scale than did the IDA-PL group (P = 0.007-0.032), whose iron status remained low. CONCLUSION: These data indicate that maternal iron deficiency negatively affects mother-child interactions and that iron supplementation protects against these negative effects.