Babies need Iron for optimal growth and health. Red blood cells are made up of Haemoglobin. They carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Lack of iron may cause anemia. Babies also need Iron for healthy brain development. Lack of iron may cause children to develop slowly and may make them lethargic and inactive.
It is very important to have a satisfactory amount of Iron in the diet. Older children may perform badly in school and have problems in maintaining concentration. They may also feel tired and weak. It is thus important for all babies and growing children to have the recommended dietary allowance or RDA of Iron in their diet.
Pregnant and lactating mothers should also take care of their Iron needs to have a healthy pregnancy and lactation. As a matter of fact lack of Iron at any age is not good for overall health.
Also Read: Baby Growth Milestones: A Complete Guide
What is the RDA for Iron in a child’s diet?
New-borns who are born at full-term have a reserve of Iron at birth. Breastfed babies get an adequate amount of iron from breast milk until about 6 months of age. if your baby is formula-fed do use an Iron-fortified infant formula that is cow-milk based for the first year or so. The iron needs of babies are as follows:
- 7-12 months- 11 mg
- 1-3 years-7 mg
- 4-8 years-10 mg
- 9-13 years-8 mg
- 14-18 years-11 mg for boys and 15 mg for girls.
How can I increase Iron in my baby?
Iron is of two types. Heme iron is easily absorbed by the body and is found in meats. Non-Heme Iron is found in vegetarian foods like legumes, cereals, vegetables and fruits. Good Iron absorption needs a diet rich in Vitamin C too. it is smart to serve Iron-rich or fortified food with a good source of Vitamin C like peppers or citrus fruits.
You can add eggs and meat to the baby’s diet slowly after 6 months. Fortified cereals, fruits, Vegetables and legumes along with tofu can be good sources of Iron. It is best to restrict dairy with food as it impedes the absorption of Iron. Calcium, phytates and oxalates present in dairy items and some green leafy vegetables may reduce Iron consumption by nearly 30%.
What can I give my baby for Iron deficiency?
Most full-term and breastfed babies do not need Iron supplements. You can add these foods to their diet to enrich Iron levels.
- Eggs can be given to babies at 4-6 months.
- Liver from chicken and beef can be cooked and mashed and given between 6-8 months
- Fish like sardines and other oily fish can be started at 6-8 months
- Poultry like chicken and turkey can be given from 6 months of age. Start with the thigh or the drumstick which is most rich in Iron.
- Fortified baby cereal from the age of 6 months. Start with a single grain like rice and gradually move to multi-grain cereals.
- Fortified Oatmeal from the age of 6 months.
- Amaranth-4-6 months
- Barley can be given as a soup or porridge from 4-6 months
- Quinoa -6 months onwards
- Wheat germ after 9 months added to cooked cereals or lentil.
- Lentils and other pulses after 7 months of age.
- Tofu from 7-8 months.
- Vegetables like peas, beets, broccoli, beans, Kale from the age of 4 months in pureed form.
- Fruits can be added to the baby’s diet from 4 months onward. Bananas, berries, raisins, apples are rich in Iron. You can mash the soft fruits and lightly puree the harder ones in the beginning.
How can I raise my iron levels quickly?
Anaemic mothers often have Iron deficient babies. One of the best ways to improve Iron levels fast is to take a supplement advised by your Doctor. This should be the first step in avoiding low iron levels during pregnancy and lactation. Iron supplements can also be needed if you are diabetic. It is better to be vigilant than to have the baby suffer at a later date.
The idea is to use fortified cereals and alternative whole grain cereals like amaranth, ragi, millets, wheat germ, in your food extensively. Lentils, legumes and beans can add to your Iron count. Vegetables and fruits rich in iron can be also added to the diet. Tofu can be a great way to add Iron to stir-fries and curries.
Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body. Add more meat like liver and kidney along with moderate amounts of red meat to your diet. Fish like Salmon, Tuna and Sardines are also great, but do be careful about the mercury content. Add Vitamin C to make the Iron readily available to the body.
The diet rich in Ironworks gradually, so if you are already Iron deficient, please consult your health practitioner for supplements.