I am often asked by my followers about Iron, and why is it so important? I wrote about the importance of iron in toddlers a while back, but thought it would be great to write about it for babies, as well, since I often receive so many questions about iron for babies.
Iron is a key nutrient in the development of babies, as they grow and develop throughout their first year. It is essential in brain-development, while babies are going through periods of rapid growth. In addition to aiding in brain development, iron is needed to make hemoglobin – the protein in our blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. That is why it is essential that our little ones are getting enough iron in their diet.
Luckily, for most healthy breastfed and formula fed babies, these kiddos have enough iron stored in their little bodies up until 6 months, and receive all they need from either iron-fortified formula or Momma’s milk. After that, these stores many begin to deplete, and as baby switches to more solid foods as in baby led weaning, it is essential that you’re making sure that the babes are getting enough in their diet!
Iron deficiency in babies and children is becoming more and more common, with an estimated 1 in 10 having an iron deficiency
Signs of Iron Deficiency in Babies:
- slow weight gain
- no appetite
- pale skin
- low activity level but high irritability (cranky and fussy)
- Increased sweating
(If you suspect your baby might have an iron-deficiency, it is important you speak to your child’s doctor)
So, How Much Iron Does My Baby Need?
According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and Health Canada, a baby needs about 11 mg of iron a day between the ages of 7-12 months. After 12 months to 36 months, a baby/toddler needs about 7-8 mg a day.
Good Sources of Iron for Babies:
Fortunately, there are lot of good sources of iron in many of the healthy foods we can feed our babies! But first, it’s important to understand, the different types of iron – Heme Iron and Non-Heme Iron.
Heme Iron is the type of iron that is found in eggs, fish, and meat. Heme iron is about 2-3x times more easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron is found in legumes, iron-fortified cereals, and dark-leafy greens – however, when eaten with foods containing Vitamin C (such as oranges, strawberries, tomatoes & red-peppers) non-heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body!
Good Sources of Heme Iron for Babies:
- Chicken (light or dark meat)
Good Sources of Non-Heme Iron for Babies:
- Dark Leafy Greens – Kale, Spinach, Broccoli
- Sweet Potato
- Iron-Fortified Bread, Cereal and Formula
Good Sources of Vitamin-C for Babies (to aid in absorption of Non-Heme Iron for babies):
- Red, Yellow, and Orange Peppers
As you can see, you have a bunch of options to make sure your little one is getting enough iron in their diet! Something as simple as a piece of iron fortified bread, served with tomato (the Vitamin C in the tomato will help with the absorption of the iron).
Here are 5 of my favorite recipes that are rich in iron for babies and toddlers:
Made with beetroot, berries, chia seeds and many other healthy, nutrient-rich ingredients, this gorgeous smoothie is perfect for both Momma and kiddo! Or, freeze the smoothie in an ice-mould for an amazingly delicious and healthy teething pop for your baby, or a refreshing healthy toddler snack on a warm summer day.
These tasty fish cakes are perfect for baby-led feeding, and a great way to introduce fish to your babe. Iron rich and delicious, these fish cakes are super simple and make a great baby led weaning lunch or dinner. They are guaranteed to be a new favourite recipe in your house.
We love Mexican food in our house! These delicious pulled pork taquitos are iron-rich, as they contain both pork and black beans. My kiddos have always loved spice, but you can alter the spices and seasonings to suit your (or your baby’s) taste buds. These are an excellent healthy finger food that is freezer friendly and perfect for a quick and easy family dinner.
Filled with tasty ingredients and iron-rich eggs and veggies, these frittatas are great for breakfast or lunch! This is also a great recipe for baby led feeding, as the mini frittatas are a perfect finger food for little hands. Feel free to alter with your favourite ingredients, or just use up what you have your fridge.
Made with iron-rich beef, this easy little baby lasagne is super tasty and perfect for those just starting out with baby led feeding. Their small size make them perfect for little hands and the soft pasta is great for babies. This recipe is super versatile – it not only includes the baby recipe, but you’ll have enough to make a full sized lasagne for the rest of the family.
I hope you enjoyed all these easy family recipes that are baby led weaning friendly. Leave a comment below and let me know your favourite iron for baby foods.