- 1 Types of Iron
- 2 The Importance of Iron in Baby’s Diet
- 3 The Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
- 4 How Much Iron Does Your Baby Need
- 5 The Best Iron Rich Foods for Babies
- 6 What about Vegetarian Families
- 7 How to Maximize Iron Absorption for the Baby
- 8 What If the Baby’s Checkup Says Their Iron Levels Are Too Low
- 9 Does Iron Intake By Mother Help The Baby?
- 10 Is Cow Milk A Good Source Of Iron For The Baby?
- 11 Should You Give Your Baby Iron Supplements
- 12 Is There Anything Like Too Much Iron?
Iron is an extremely important nutrient in a baby’s diet and unfortunately, iron deficiencies are among the most common deficiencies in the world. That fact is quite unfortunate because iron is crucial for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body and for cognitive development. Iron deficiency in infants is usually caused by lack of dietary iron or delayed introduction in iron rich foods for babies in their diet. When babies are born, they normally have enough iron stored in their bodies to last them at least six months.
Within that time, the iron they get from either breast milk or formula, depending on what they are having, is usually enough. After six months, babies need dietary iron regularly in order to promote optimal development and growth. While most people feel that fortified cereals are best introductory foods for infants, lean red meats and other sources of iron can be added as well.
Types of Iron
The iron found in food comes in two forms i.e. haem iron and non-haem iron.
• Haem iron : This form is found in red meat and is usually more readily absorbed into the human body
• Non-haem : This form is found in grains, green vegetables and beans
As soon as the baby can tolerate pureed cereals as well as vegetables, then they can be introduced to pureed lean meat. Once they further develop their chewing and swallowing skills, a wider range of iron-rich foods can be introduced. Most parents fear feeding meat to their young ones. However, doing so is an excellent idea when served right a few times a week, and in the right portions.
The Importance of Iron in Baby’s Diet
Iron is essential in the creation of hemoglobin in the body, which is a key component in red blood cells. Without enough iron, there is inadequate production of red blood cells and this means the body organs’ fail to get as much oxygen as they need. When a baby is iron deficient, they will not only experience cognitive and development deficits and delays but also, they could face the risk of developing anemia.
The Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
For the brain to develop in a normal way, your baby needs to have iron. When babies do not get enough of it, they will be less active. Consequently, they will develop quite slowly and you will notice the following symptoms.
• Slow weight gain
• Lack of appetite
• Pale skin
How Much Iron Does Your Baby Need
As long as the baby is born full term, they will have enough iron for six months. If they were born pre-mature or underweight, the doctor will decide if they need iron drops if they do not have enough iron. Within 6 months, the baby will have enough of it from breast milk. You should not wait too long after 6 months to introduce iron rich foods to your baby’s diet because it could be risky. If you are not breastfeeding your child, a store bought formula that is iron-fortified will be a good substitute for the baby for at least 12 months and ensure it is based on cow milk. From seven to 12 months, your baby will be needing 11 mg of iron on a daily basis.
The Best Iron Rich Foods for Babies
• Egg yolk- Egg yolks are high in iron and you can either mash or strain them for your baby.
• Starchy foods- There are certain starchy foods like chickpeas, potatoes and quinoa that are very rich in iron. They are normally very mild, soft, and easy for your baby to eat and digest.
• Lean meat- Given that fat contains no iron, give your baby pureed lean red meat any time after six months. Beef, chicken liver, turkey and beef liver are some of the best sources of iron for your child. You should wait longer before introducing meats like pork or fish to avoid allergies.
• Cereals- Baby cereals with added iron are also a great source of iron for the baby
• Iron-fortified formula
• Green leafy vegetables
• Sweet potatoes
• Winter squash
• Prune juice
TIP: When cooking meat for your baby, do not add salt or soy sauce.
What about Vegetarian Families
If your family is vegetarian and you want to avoid meat and eggs, you should know that the nutrients they provide are extremely important for your baby. This means that you should get alternative foods that will offer as much as meats would for your baby. Some of these iron rich foods for babies that you can use as substitutes include tofu, legumes, peanut butter, soymilk, and lentils.
How to Maximize Iron Absorption for the Baby
There are certain iron helpers that can aid maximum absorption for your baby and Vitamin C is one of the best helpers. This means that you can give your baby food or fruits rich in vitamin C while you give them food rich in iron to increase the rate at which the baby absorbs iron. You can give your baby sources of vitamin C that include citrus fruits, apples, peaches, bananas, berries and green veggies like cabbage and broccoli depending on their age.
What If the Baby’s Checkup Says Their Iron Levels Are Too Low
If your baby’s hemoglobin levels have been checked and found to be too low, it will be even more important for you to ensure they get as much iron and Vitamin C as possible. It is best that you try to raise those levels with food before you actually result to supplements of any kind. After a few months of trying or after as long as your doctor recommends, go back for a re-test and if they are still low, then the doctor will recommend the best supplement. If the baby has been ill recently before testing, you should consider that the level could be low due to the illness, so wait until they are okay.
Does Iron Intake By Mother Help The Baby?
Additional intake or iron by the mother does not help the baby because it does not increase the iron in breast milk. When the mother takes iron supplements, it could result to constipation for the baby.
Is Cow Milk A Good Source Of Iron For The Baby?
No, it is not. Cows’ milk has almost the same amount or iron as a mothers’ milk but the baby’s body does not absorb it as readily as it does breast milk. The baby should be at least 9-12 moths when you introduce cow milk to it and drinking too much of it could actually lead to iron deficiency.
Should You Give Your Baby Iron Supplements
Only a doctor should recommend this depending on your baby. They might need a supplement if they were born pre-term or they do not eat as much iron-rich foods as required. Therefore, consult your pediatrician before you actually get a supplement.
Is There Anything Like Too Much Iron?
Yes, your child could get too much iron but it is highly unlikely to get it from food. Supplements on the other hand can do more harm than good because excess iron can be toxic to your child causing serious problems.
Final Thoughts on Iron Rich Foods for Babies
It is always wide to talk with your pediatrician before introducing solids to your baby’s diet. Make sure the baby is getting enough but not too much to harm them either.