Babies need more iron than adults!

Written by Mothers Mylk Clinic
Paediatric Nutritionist, Chrissy Smith

Did you know that babies require more iron than adults due to their rapid growth and development during the first few years of life? Shockingly, 9 out of 10 infants aged 6-12 months are not meeting their recommended daily iron intakes.

Iron plays a pivotal role in a baby's growth journey, aiding in the production of haemoglobin, myoglobin, and enzymes essential for cell growth, cognitive development, and overall energy metabolism. As a result, the impacts of insufficient iron are far-reaching and can affect various aspects of a child's well-being.

Rapid Growth and Development:

During infancy, babies undergo significant growth, both in size and the development of vital organs and tissues. Iron, crucial for producing haemoglobin and myoglobin, supports cell growth, cognitive development, and overall energy metabolism.

Depletion of Iron Stores:

A baby's iron stores, accumulated during pregnancy, start depleting after birth. By around 6 months of age, these stores may no longer suffice to meet the growing baby's iron needs, necessitating additional iron from the diet.

Iron Needs for Brain Development:

Iron is pivotal for brain development, particularly during infancy and early childhood. Adequate iron intake supports optimal cognitive function, learning, and behaviour in growing children.

Increased Blood Volume:

Babies witness a surge in blood volume as they grow. Iron becomes crucial in ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen to all tissues and organs, a need that amplifies as blood volume expands with growth.

Transition to Solid Foods:

Around 6 months of age, babies typically transition to solid foods from breast milk or formula. Introducing solid foods, especially those rich in iron, becomes paramount in meeting the increased iron needs at this stage.

Incorporating iron-rich foods into a baby's diet is not just important; it's an essential aspect of their nutritional needs, especially when the transition to solid foods begins around 6 months of age. Ensuring a diverse range of iron-rich foods during this stage establishes the foundation for a healthy iron status

Here are some iron-rich food sources for infants:

  • Beef (cooked and pureed): Iron Content: Approximately 2-3 mg per tablespoon.
  • Lentils (cooked and mashed): Iron Content: Around 1 mg per tablespoon.
  • Tofu (cooked and mashed): Iron Content: Approximately 1 mg per tablespoon.
  • Spinach (cooked and pureed): Iron Content: Roughly 1 mg per tablespoon.
  • Eggs (cooked and mashed): Iron Content: About 0.6 mg per egg yolk.
  • Iron-Fortified Infant Cereals: Iron Content: Typically 4-7 mg per 3 tablespoons serving.

Given the higher absorption rate, incorporating more heme iron-rich foods into a baby's diet, such as meat and poultry, can be particularly beneficial. However, for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, including a variety of non-heme iron-rich plant-based foods alongside vitamin C-rich foods can enhance absorption.

Have more questions about this or need more support? Book a consult with me at Mothers Mylk Clinic. I’ve got plenty more tips and tricks I’d love to share with you.

Looking for more Mama?

Book an online
Nutrition Chat

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Looking for more Mama?

Book an online Nutrition Chat

Visit the Mothers
Mylk Clinic

Take the Postpartum
Depletion Quiz

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