Monday, 1 June 2015

Any old iron

I have been feeling vaguely triumphant about LittleBear's eating recently. Which is always a bad idea. Never be tempted to feel proud, or complacent, or even remotely nonchalant about anything child-related - you're just setting yourself up for a bigger fall later.

The reason for my happiness was that he'd actually conceded to eating some meat. He'd helped make frtikadeller, and eaten three tiny ones that he'd rolled himself. He'd also tried roast chicken, only on the understanding that he could then pull the wishbone, but still, bribery or not, he actually tried it and admitted it wasn't yucky. It felt like light at the end of the tunnel.

Then my brother and his family came to see us.

My sister-in-law looked askance at me and said "does he drink milk with every meal? You do know milk hinders iron absorption don't you? You might want to keep an eye on that..." I'm mostly certain she meant that kindly. Actually, I am certain she meant it kindly, and since I know she hasn't (so far...) read this blog, and I'm a lot more circumspect about talking about my insanity than writing about it, I also know she doesn't have a clue what my anxious mind has done with this information.

Obviously, the first step was to double-check on iron absorption issues. LittleBear would need to be drinking three quarters of a litre a day to have a significant impact on his iron absorption. He drinks more like a third of that amount. Which is actually about the recommended amount for his age. Phew. Not doing anything wrong.

You'd think that would be that wouldn't you?

You'd think I could stop worrying wouldn't you?

You haven't been paying attention have you?

I've got something new to worry about. Iron. Is LittleBear getting enough iron? There's so much I don't know, so much to research, so much to check, double-check, count, monitor, read... it's exhausting. BigBear says "he's fine, don't worry". BigBear is right, as well as sensible, this time. But telling me not to worry is a bit like telling someone with depression to cheer up. It just doesn't work like that.

So... now I know the difference between haem-iron and non-haem-iron. Now I'm moderately well-read on the bio-availability of elemental iron, and the impact on absorption of grain size of the additive. Now I've read The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998. (Now I know that the fortification process of wheat flour in the UK allows for the addition of powdered iron, in its elemental form, which is something of a surprise.) What I don't know is how much iron is added to any given flour, in what format, and how much LittleBear will absorb of what he eats. I'm a PhysicsBear, not a BiologyBear or MedicineBear. Now I'm getting really cross that it's next to impossible to find out the iron content of flour, bread and other wheat-based products, because it doesn't seem to be a legal requirement to list the trace quantities in food. I'm having to rely on other people's random websites to tell me the iron content of most foods. And that vexes me.

[Though, for anyone who wants to join me in worrying about such things, there's a really handy resource from the Royal Surrey Hospital. It actually tells you how much iron is in some fairly normal foods, and how much you need.]

Now I know that LittleBear should be eating about 6.1mg of iron per day. And now I'm also gazing at all the things he eats and mentally checking off whether they have iron in or not, and whether I should be doing something differently. I was fine a week ago. A week ago it hadn't even occurred to me to be worried, and now I'm verging on obsessed about it. I lay awake last night until gone 1am rumminating and pondering and massively, massively overthinking what LittleBear eats. Again. (OK, so some of that was because I think the cafe we went to in the afternoon gave me caffeinated instead of decaffeinated coffee when I ordered, because I was wired yesterday after that outing...)

I have become so fixated on this issue, I've actually added up what he's eaten today:

Cheerios             3.0mg
Toast                   0.8mg
Potato                 0.8mg
Broccoli              0.2mg
Peas                    0.5mg
Dark chocolate   0.2mg
Rice                    0.2mg
Cake                   0.3mg
Milk                   0.2mg

6.2mg! Woohoo! We made it! And today didn't include any of LittleBears "better" foods for iron, like sausages, baked beans, pinto beans or even dried apricots. Maybe he's not going to be anaemic after all! (Yes, yes, yes, the fact that he has absolutely no signs of being anaemic is utterly irrelevant. What do you want me to do? Be sensible and look at things rationally? No! I shall count random numbers instead. That's clearly a much more effective life-management technique.)

Oh, and that list of foods? Those are only the things that had any noticeable iron content in, not the sum total of the things that LittleBear ate today. Honest. There were strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, carrots, sweetcorn, cheese, shortbread and rich tea biscuits. And for all I know, there's iron in those too. In fact, I know there is in the biscuits as they're made with flour, and therefore have iron in by law. So there.

Now the real question? Is this going to be enough to stop me fretting? Hmmm.....

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