Every parent is concerned about their child’s health and wants the best for them. When introducing solid foods, they have many questions about ensuring that their baby has everything they need to grow and develop.
In this article:
- Why is iron important
- Nutritional recommendations
- Foods rich in iron
- Iron deficiencies and anemia in babies under 1 year
- How you can increase iron in an infant’s diet
Concerning the ideal time to integrate solid foods and which types you should start with, along with some practical advice for doing so, go to Baby Diet: When Should Solid Foods be Introduced? This entry will focus on a baby’s iron needs over time and based on their growth.
Why is iron important?
Everyone needs iron, which is a mineral that promotes normal growth of the brain, helps transport oxygenation in the blood to the body’s cells, and is an important part of hemoglobin (blood component, red blood cells). Over the long-term, a deficiency will impact structures, different systems in the human body, and even organ function. The impact can be both motor and neurological. When considering the rapid growth of a baby during their first year of life, it’s easy to see the high risks associated with an iron deficiency during this evolution period.
Nutritional Recommendations for Iron
Even if the mother is still breastfeeding their six-month-old baby, Health Canada and the Institut national de santé publique du Québec recommend introducing foods rich in iron. Babies will have used up their iron reserves received from their mother during childbirth. Their fast growth requires an increase in iron intake, which can’t be met with their mother’s milk (Health Canada: Nutrition for healthy term infants, birth to six months ). For a six to twelve-month-old infant, the quantity of breast milk or infant formula must be about 720 ml to 960 ml (24 oz to 32 oz) per day. For a baby fed with formula, it must have at least 10 mg to 12 mg/iron per litre, and even more in some cases.
With this in mind, do you understand why we suggest adding meats to a baby’s diet after six months? This food group will have the biggest impact on iron rates in your baby’s blood. Meat is also a source of protein, vitamins and zinc. In addition to meat, you can use meat substitutes like eggs, tofu and legumes. Infant cereals enriched with iron are a great choice when introducing solids to your baby. They will help meet their nutritional needs for their fast growth.
Health Canada even approves meat as a first food to give a baby when starting their solid food diet at six months. This recommendation has been around for the past several years to increase iron intake. Babies are also able to handle meat at this age. But it hasn’t really become widely adopted by parents, as they’re still culturally used to starting with cereals, vegetables or fruit. If you start solid foods between four and six months, start with cereals enriched with iron, fruit and vegetables. Once they reach six months, meat or meat substitutes should be added to their diet quickly.
To continue reading, go to Foods Rich in Iron.