Is your baby getting enough iron?
Babies need plenty of iron in their diet because they are growing so quickly and iron is essential for their growth and development. But what are the best sources of iron and how do you include iron in your baby's diet?
Which are the best sources of iron?
Haem iron foods (Easily absorbed)
• Liver*, kidney
• Lean beef, lamb Good Sources
• Lean chicken, pork
• Fish, including canned fish
*While liver is an excellent source of iron, it is also rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for health, but too much can be harmful to babies. Limit liver to about 3 teaspoons (15 grams) a week. When first introducing liver to your baby, keep a piece in the freezer and simply grate some into simmering, almost cooked vegetables before puréeing.
Non - Haem iron foods (Poorly absorbed)
• Infant cereal with added iron, porridge**
• Peas, spinach, silverbeet, broccoli, cauliflower
• Dried apricots, prunes, other dried fruit, finely chopped**
• Baked beans, cooked dried beans, lentils, split peas
• Puha, taro leaves
• Wholemeal bread (avoid coarse, grainy types)
** From 8 months
How much iron does my baby need?
Your baby’s iron needs can be met with a combination of:
• Milk feeds
• Cooked lean beef or lamb and vegetables
• Iron-fortified infant cereal with fruit to increase iron absorption
How much food does my baby need?
Babies tend to eat according to the amount they need. Every baby is unique; some days they will eat more than other days. Offer small portions of nutritious foods each day and trust your baby to decide how much to eat. Some babies will turn their head away when full. A happy, contented baby, growing well, is the best sign your baby is getting all the nutrients they need.
Could my baby be iron deficient?
If you can tick any of the boxes below, or are concerned about your baby’s iron level, talk to your doctor or Plunket nurse.
• Recurrent infections
• Grumpy and irritable
• Tired and lethargic
• Difficulty sleeping
• Feels the cold
• Reduced appetite
• Reduced weight gain
• Digestive problems
WHY ARE IRON-RICH FOODS SO IMPORTANT?
For the first six months babies obtain all the iron they need from their own iron stores combined with their milk feeds. Although breast milk is quite low in iron, it is very well absorbed. Breast-fed babies rarely lack iron. By around six months of age your baby’s iron stores are beginning to run out. Iron needs increase and are particularly high between six and nine months. At this time, a range of solid food must be introduced gradually. It is important these early foods are ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ sources of easily absorbed iron such as lean beef and lamb, to ensure iron needs are met.