Essential nutrition: iron for baby

Iron is a vital nutrient for babies (and the rest of us!). In this article I unpack why, how much and how to include this essential nutrient in your baby’s diet. Why not print the infographic above and keep it as guide.

Why do babies need iron?

By the time they are 6 months, baby’s iron stores are rather depleted, so including iron rich foods in the diet is important. Iron is needed to make the haemoglobin, found in red blood cells, which carry oxygen the blood.

Which foods are rich in iron?

  • red meat
  • liver
  • oily fish like sardines
  • almonds (ground, not whole)
  • fortified breakfast cereals – check the label
  • Smaller amounts in lentils and green leafy vegetables but these are not as easily absorbed.

How much iron does a baby need?

The Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) for iron is:

  • 4-6 months –  4.7mg per day
  • 7-12 months – 7.8mg per day
  • 1-2 years 6.9mg per day
  • 3-4 years 6.5mg per day

What can affect the absorption of iron?

Having certain foods and nutrients at the same meal as iron rich foods, can reduce or increase the absorption.

What can increase the absorption?

Vitamin C – found in foods like blackcurrants, red and green pepper, oranges, orange juice, strawberries, broccoli (essentially fruit and veg but these have more than some others)

What can reduce the absorption?

Calcium rich foods like dairy and dairy alternatives

Phytates found in grains & high fibre foods Tannins found in tea (including herbal teas)

How to include iron at breakfast

  • include an iron rich breakfast eg fortified breakfast cereal
  • add almonds to another cereal
  • And to help absorption, offer a portion of fruit with breakfast

Iron rich meals

  • Sardines on toast or mixed with pasta
  • Homemade burgers or kebabs
  • Beef casserole or mild curry
  • Lentil curry or Bolognese with broccoli

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