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July 2000

Intestinal Blood Loss During Cow Milk Feeding in Older Infants: Quantitative Measurements

Author Affiliations

From the Fomon Infant Nutrition Unit, Department of Pediatrics, The University of Iowa, Iowa City. Dr Jiang is now with the Center for Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Md.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154(7):673-678. doi:10.1001/archpedi.154.7.673

Objective  To determine the response, in terms of fecal hemoglobin excretion and clinical symptoms, of normal 9½-month-old infants to being fed cow milk.

Design  Longitudinal (before-after) trial in which each infant was fed formula for 1 month (baseline) followed by 3 months during which cow milk was fed.

Setting  Healthy infants living in Iowa City, Iowa, a town with a population of about 60,000.

Main Outcome Measures  Hemoglobin concentration in spot stools, 96-hour quantitative fecal hemoglobin excretion, stool characteristics, feeding-related behaviors, and iron nutritional status.

Results  Fecal hemoglobin concentration during formula feeding (baseline) was higher than previously observed in younger infants. Nine of 31 infants responded to cow milk feeding with increased fecal hemoglobin concentration. Fecal hemoglobin concentration (mean±SD) of the 9 responders rose from 1395±856 µg/g of dry stool (baseline) to 2711±1732 µg/g of dry stool (P=.01). The response rate (29%) was similar to that in younger infants, but the intensity of the response was much less. Quantitative hemoglobin excretion was in general agreement with estimates based on spot stool hemoglobin concentrations. Cow milk feeding was not associated with recognizable changes in stool characteristics, nor were there clinical signs related to fecal blood loss. Iron status was similar, except that after 3 months of cow milk feeding responders showed lower (P=.047) ferritin concentrations than nonresponders.

Conclusions  Cow milk–induced blood loss is present in 9½-month-old infants but is of such low intensity that its clinical significance seems questionable. Nevertheless, infants without cow milk–induced blood loss were in better iron nutritional status than infants who showed blood loss.