Iron-Clad Nutrition: Introducing Iron to Your Baby’s Diet Day 1: Iron-Clad Nutrition

Iron-Clad Nutrition: Introducing Iron to Your Baby’s Diet

Your little one is growing, their body and brain are developing, their senses are becoming keen, and their bones and muscles are getting stronger! And that’s why they need some key nutrients at this age.

Let’s start with a key nutrient: iron. Iron is especially essential for breastfed babies, as breast milk has a low quantity of this nutrient.

Why & When Do Infants Need Iron?

When babies are born, they have a store of iron in their body, but it starts to deplete by the time they are 4-6 months old. That's why iron needs increase at 6 months. While formula-fed babies get iron through fortified formula, breastfed babies may not get enough iron from breast milk alone.

According to the National Institute of Nutrition, infants from 6 to 12 months of age require about 5 mg of iron. Iron is crucial for transporting oxygen in the body and supporting cognitive and physical development in babies. Lack of iron can cause anemia, which can affect the baby’s brain and cognitive growth.

Types & Sources of Iron in Daily Food

There are two types of iron found in food: heme and non-heme.

  • Heme iron is found only in animal flesh like meat, poultry, and seafood. It is the best absorbed source of iron in the body.
  • On the other hand, non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains (such as amaranth), nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses (such as dal, chana, rajma, moong, matki, chawli), and leafy greens. However, non-heme iron is not as efficiently absorbed in the body as heme iron.
  • To help boost the absorption of non-heme iron, it is recommended to combine these foods with Vitamin C-rich foods. In a later chapter, we will delve into which foods are rich in Vitamin C.

    Below, we list out all the heme and non-heme sources of iron that can be found in the food we consume every day.

    Heme Iron Sources

  • Chicken
  • Mutton
  • Beef
  • Organ meat
  • Egg yolk
  • Fish like Pomfret, Rohu, Hilsa
  • Clams, oysters
  • Crab, prawns, shrimp
  • Non-Heme Iron Sources

  • Iron-fortified infant cereals
  • Whole grains and cereals: oats, oatmeal, brown rice, red rice, bajra, jowar
  • Cooked beans and legumes: chickpea, brown lentils, green lentils, split peas, kidney beans (rajma), navy beans, broad beans, mung beans, lima beans, pinto beans, matki, horse gram (kulith), roasted Bengal gram (chana dal)
  • Tofu, soya chunks
  • Dry fruits and nuts: cashews, raisins, munakka, sultanas, apricots, fig, dates, pista, peanuts
  • Leaves of moringa, rajgira, methi, cow pea, nightshade, or chawli
  • Turnip and cauliflower greens
  • Seeds: Pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, watermelon
  • Dry coconut, coconut meal, dry lotus stem, dry karonda, sundakkai
  • Beetroot, sweet potato, ginger
  • Bay leaf, spirulina, dill, parsley, fresh turmeric
  • 3 Last Tips

    As we delve deeper into more nutrients in the coming chapters, we want you to remember 3 important tips!

    1. Don’t worry if your little one doesn’t accept even one spoonful.

    2. Breastmilk/formula continue to provide a majority of the nutritional needs of your baby.

    3. Tiny tummies fill up very quickly.

    Let the baby decide their pace; keep an eye out for signs that they have had enough and do not want to eat more.