Iron is a Key Nutrient Mineral That Babies Need
Iron plays a critical role in helping to maintain healthy red blood cells and carry oxygen through our blood. It also helps the body’s immune system function properly by defending us against bacteria, viruses and other unsavory things that could make us ill. It is not commonly known that iron also plays a role in metabolism, regulating the body’s temperature, and it even helps to ensure healthy cognitive development. Iron is one of the most important nutrients that a developing baby needs! The vast majority of babies will not become iron deficient if they do not eat a fortified baby rice cereal, nor will they become iron deficient if they do not receive supplements unless there are underlying factors such as preterm birth, low birth weight or a mother who had a poor nutritional status during pregnancy.
Iron is found in two different forms, heme and non-heme.
💡 Heme iron is the form of iron that our bodies best absorb and use most efficiently. It makes up about 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry (including eggs, in particular the yolks), and fish.
💡 Non-heme iron is present in animals but it makes up all of the iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts). Non heme iron is not absorbed or utilized by the body as well as heme iron is.
How much iron does a baby need? What iron rich foods can I feed baby?
According to the National Institutes for Health (United States), the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Iron is:
0-6 Months: for infants from 0-6 months the 0.27 milligrams of iron per day.
7-12 Months: for babies 7-12 months, the RDA for iron increases to 11 milligrams per day.
12 Months – 4 Years: 7 milligrams per day
When a baby reaches the age of 1 year, the recommended daily allowance actually decreases to 7 milligrams per day. Once children reach the age of 4-8 years old, the iron recommendation goes back up to 10 milligrams per day. These daily recommendations apply to both male and female children.
🎀 Once girls reach the age of fourteen, their iron requirements increase more than those of boys. The increase in iron requirements continues to be gender driven up until the age of 50 years. Some foods that are rich in iron may be found listed below. You should try to serve your infant at least 2 of these foods every day (ensure that the foods are age appropriate) once he has begun to decrease his breast milk/formula intake and begins to eat more solid foods.
How much iron is in the food I feed my baby?
You may be surprised to see exactly how much iron is in just 1 tablespoon of some common baby foods; 1 tablespoon is equal to approximately 14 grams. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, take a look at how much iron is in the following foods:
Iron is found in two different forms, heme and non-heme. Heme iron is the form of iron that our bodies best absorb and use most efficiently. It makes up about 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry (including eggs, in particular the yolks), and fish. Non-heme iron is present in animal tissue and it makes up all of the iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts). Non heme iron is not absorbed or utilized by the body as well as heme iron is.
 USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory may be accessed at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/
breast milk & iron-fortified infant formula
meat & poultry
(beef, beef & chicken liver, pork, turkey, chicken, egg yolks)
shellfish (clams, oysters, shrimp)
tuna, sardines, canned salmon
greens (spinach, broccoli, beet, kale etc…)
dried fruit (figs, apricots, prunes, raisins)
(cooked cracked wheat, wheat germ, cornmeal, millet, brown rice, farina, bran, breads, iron fortified cereals)
blackstrap molasses (try adding a little to cereal when baby is over 10 months old)