Iron for your Baby
Some babies are at higher risk of iron deficient anaemia than others:
- Premature babies – baby’s iron stores are built during the final few months of pregnancy.
- Full-term babies born with a low birth weight.
- Babies of mothers with diabetes.
- Babies of mothers whose diet was nutritionally poor diet during pregnancy.
Maintaining your baby’s iron levels…
If you took care with your diet during pregnancy and your baby was healthy and full-term at birth, iron levels will continue to be kept up either by your breast milk, or the formula you feed your baby with.
Iron deficiency is rarely found in breastfed babies as breast milk naturally contains iron – as well as the fluids and all other nutrients that a baby needs for good health. Also, the iron in breast milk is very easily absorbed – even though there are not high amounts in breast milk, baby will get all the iron that’s needed until at least 6 months of age.
Iron from formula milk is not as easy for baby to absorb, but it is fortified with high amounts – so iron levels are well maintained for baby’s first 6 months, and there is normally no risk of deficiency.
Cow’s milk should not be fed to infants until they are a year old, as it is low in iron and the iron is not easy for an infant’s system to absorb – it can also cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
From 6 months of age iron stores will begin to gradually deplete, but there is no need for your baby to have any other foods before then. Indeed, introducing solids too early – especially to breastfed babies – may actually inhibit iron levels.
At about 6 months of age, however, your baby will need to begin having other foods that contain iron introduced into her diet.
Remember… always speak with your baby’s doctor about introducing new foods – particularly if there may be allergy issues.
How much iron does your baby need?
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Iron:
It is recommended that for a baby aged 0-6 months an adequate intake (AI) is 0.27mg of iron per day – this would normally be supplied by your breast milk or the formula you use to feed your baby.
For a baby aged 7-12 months the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 11mg of iron per day.
According to the UDSA Nutrient Database, a standard tablespoon (15ml/14.23gm) of the following common baby foods will give your baby the amounts of iron shown:
Sweet Potato 0.10mg
Chicken (light meat) 0.15mg
Chicken (dark meat) 0.19mg
Egg yolk 0.38mg
Maximise the amount of iron your baby absorbs from food with Vitamin C…
There are two types of iron – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is obtained from protein/meat foods, while non-heme iron comes from plant foods (cereals). People receive mostly non-heme iron – it has less bioavailability and the body absorbs it in smaller amounts.
Help your baby get the most iron from his meals by including a food that is high in vitamin C, as vitamin C helps with iron absorption – puree a fruit or vegetable that contains good amounts of vitamin C and add it to baby’s cereal, for instance.
As your baby gets older, meals that include protein (chicken for example), vegetable, fruit and yogurt will give a perfectly balanced diet.
Foods high in vitamin C:
- Citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines etc.)
- Green vegetables (broccoli, cabbage etc.)
- Apple or other fruit juice, fortified with vitamin C
|Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Heme|
|Food (Note that 2 tablespoons equals 30g/1oz (U.S.)||Milligrams per serving||% DV*|
|Chicken liver, cooked, 100g/3½ ounces (7 tablespoons)||12.8||70|
|Oysters, breaded and fried, 6 pieces||4.5||25|
|Beef, chuck, lean only, braised, 85g/3 ounces
|Clams, breaded, fried, ¾ cup||3.0||15|
|Beef, tenderloin, roasted, 85g/3 ounces||3.0||15|
|Turkey, dark meat, roasted, 100g/3½ ounces
|Beef, eye of round, roasted, 85g/3 ounces||2.2||10|
|Turkey, light meat, roasted, 100g/3½ ounces||1.6||8|
|Chicken, leg, meat only, roasted, 100g/3½ ounces||1.3||6|
|Tuna, fresh bluefin, cooked, dry heat,
|Chicken, breast, roasted, 85g/3 ounces||1.1||6|
|Halibut, cooked, dry heat, 85g/3 ounces||0.9||6|
|Crab, blue crab, cooked, moist heat, 85g/3 ounces||0.8||4|
|Pork, loin, broiled (grilled), 85g/3 ounces||0.8||4|
|Tuna, white, canned in water, 85g/3 ounces||0.8||4|
|Shrimp, mixed species, cooked, moist heat, 4 large||0.7||4|
|Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Non-heme Iron|
|Food -2 tablespoons equals 30g/1oz, and 1 cup equals 240g/8oz (U.S.) approximate.||Milligrams per serving||% DV*|
|Ready-to-eat cereal, 100% iron fortified, ¾ cup||18.0||100|
|Oatmeal, instant, fortified,
prepared with water, 1 cup
|Soybeans, mature, boiled, 1 cup||8.8||50|
|Lentils, boiled, 1 cup||6.6||35|
|Beans, kidney, mature, boiled, 1 cup||5.2||25|
|Beans, lima, large, mature, boiled, 1 cup||4.5||25|
|Beans, navy, mature, boiled, 1 cup||4.5||25|
|Ready-to-eat cereal, 25% iron fortified, ¾ cup||4.5||25|
|Beans, black, mature, boiled, 1 cup||3.6||20|
|Beans, pinto, mature, boiled, 1 cup||3.6||20|
|Molasses, blackstrap, 1 tablespoon||3.5||20|
|Tofu, raw, firm, ½ cup||3.4||20|
|Spinach, boiled, drained, ½ cup||3.2||20|
|Spinach, canned, drained solids ½ cup||2.5||10|
|Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup||1.8||10|
|Spinach, frozen, chopped, boiled ½ cup||1.9||10|
|Grits, white, enriched, quick,
prepared with water, 1 cup
|Raisins, seedless, packed, ½ cup||1.5||8|
|Whole wheat bread, 1 slice||0.9||6|
|White bread, enriched, 1 slice||0.9||6|