I have an 11-month-old baby who was fully breastfed for six months and then has had solids and breast milk on demand since, with no formula. I am wondering what your opinion is on fully breastfed babies needing iron supplements?
I offer her red meat once or twice a week and other iron-rich food such as broccoli and beetroot regularly and fortified porridge in the morning most days. Is she getting all she needs from her food and the breast milk?
There is no need for iron supplementation if you are regularly giving your child a variety of iron-rich foods.
From birth to six months of age, most babies will get all the iron they need from their own body stores (received from the mother during pregnancy), breast milk or iron-fortified baby formula.
Around six months of age, however, their body stores will be nearly depleted so this is an important time to start introducing solids and include some iron-rich foods to make sure their iron levels remain healthy. Iron-fortified rice cereal is an ideal first baby food.
Iron is an important mineral for growth and development for strong healthy muscles, production of red blood cells and a healthy immune system. It's also essential for brain development and function, and needed for energy production.
Without sufficient iron your child will be more susceptible to colds and infections, have low-energy levels, muscle weakness and pale skin. By giving your child a variety of animal- and plant-based iron-rich foods daily you will ensure that your child is receiving adequate amounts of iron in their diet.
Haem-iron sources are animal based and are the best sources of iron. These include lean meat, chicken, fish and eggs.
Non-haem iron sources are plant based and include wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), baked beans, nuts (nut butters), seeds (tahini), green leafy vegetables and dried fruits. A wide range of iron-fortified food products including breakfast cereals and breads are also available.
Adding foods rich in vitamin C to meals containing iron can greatly increase the absorption of iron from that meal. This is especially important for vegetarians. For example, orange juice, tomatoes or vitamin C-rich fruits or vegetables eaten with a meal containing iron.
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