Importance of Iron for Infants
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Importance of Iron for Infants

Iron is one of the most important nutrients in a baby’s diet. Crucial for cognitive development and transportation of oxygen around the body, iron deficiencies are the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. In Australia, iron deficiency is a significant issue for both women and children with up to 25 percent of women and up to 30 percent of children under the age of two at risk. Iron deficiency in infants can be caused by a lack of dietary iron as well as a delayed introduction of iron rich foods into an infant’s diet. Babies have sufficient iron stores until they reach the age of six months. From this time, they require a regular intake of dietary iron to endure optimal growth and development. It is worth noting that while fortified cereals (like Bellamy’s Organic Porridge for example) contain added iron and are often the first pureed foods to be introduced into an infant’s diet, the importance of introducing lean red meat into the diets of babies should not be forgotten. There are two forms of iron found in food – haem and non-haem. Haem iron is found in red meat and is more readily absorbed than non-haem iron, which is found in grains, beans and green vegetables. It is recommended that once babies are tolerating pureed cereals and vegetables that pureed lean meat be introduced. Once their swallowing and chewing skills develop further a range of iron rich foods can be introduced, including minced lean meat, chicken and fish, as well as lentils, beans and eggs for non-meat eating families. Often parents are scared of introducing meat into the diets of babies for fear of choking or not digesting heavier food. Nutritionally, there are few foods which offer readily absorbed iron as lean meat does. As long as it is served at the right texture, in small portions (10 – 20mg) along with some soft vegetables, it should feature in the diet of your baby by seven months three to four times each week. Now for the mums – chances are you were well aware of consuming enough iron when you were pregnant. But now, several months after the birth you may be feeling a little tired. If this is the case make sure you request a blood test when you see your GP to ensure your iron stores are not low. Most importantly, ensure you are consuming 50-100g of lean red meat three to four times each week. While it may seem like a lot, just a couple of cutlets, a serve of lean mince and a small steak each week will ensure you give your body access to plenty of well absorbed iron.

Iron requirements for babies and toddlers

7 – 12 months 7 – 11mg
1 – 3 years 9mg
Mums 18mg
Breastfeeding Mums 9mg


Iron counter: haem iron which is well absorbed

100g steak 3.5mg
¼ cup of beef mince 1.5mg
1 egg 1mg
¼ cup chicken 0.4mg
¼ cup fish 0.8mg


Iron counter: non-haem iron

½ cup baked beans 1.6mg
¼ cup kidney beans 1.1mg
1 slice whole meal bread 0.7mg
½ cup broccoli 1.0mg
Bellamy’s Organic Baby Porridge 2.1mg