At this point in Baby’s development, iron plays a key role in the growth of their body and brain, so it’s important that they get enough in their diet. Most healthy, full-term infants up to 6 months old can get all the iron they need from breast milk or an iron-enriched formula, but around the time you start introducing solid food, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor about Baby’s iron levels, to see if you should increase their iron intake. Babies who are weaned off of breast milk before a year old should be switched over to a formula that’s iron-fortified. Babies 7 months to a year old should be getting 11 mg of iron a day, according to the National Institute of Health.
Your doctor might recommend introducing an iron-rich rice cereal to Baby’s diet, because these cereals are mild enough not to offend their little stomach or palate. On the other hand, if Baby is getting all of the iron they need, your doctor may recommend a high-fiber fruit puree as their first food, instead. Iron-fortified cereal is a popular option, but since cereal doesn’t provide many other nutritional benefits, many parents choose to work iron into their children’s diets through other iron-rich foods, like chicken or egg yolk.
Iron’s best friend is vitamin C. Iron from plants, like leafy greens or peas, can be harder for Baby’s body to absorb, so if a significant amount of their iron starts to come from these sources as they get older, consider introducing some C-rich vegetables, like broccoli, or fruits, like kiwi fruit or tomatoes, into iron-heavy meals. In addition to boosting Baby’s immune system, a healthy amount of vitamin C in their diet can help them absorb and process the iron better, so they can get the most out of their food.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit have high vitamin C content, but many healthcare providers recommend waiting to introduce citrus until babies are 6 to 12 months old, since the acidity in citrus fruits can cause a rash or diaper rash, and be a little hard on little tummies, until they grow a bit more robust. Luckily, oranges aren’t the only fruits that are high in vitamin C, so there are plenty of other fruits to keep Baby‘s diet robust, varied, and C-rich as they grow.
There’s a school of thought that says that too much iron in an infant’s diet causes constipation. However, a study by a professor at John Hopkins Medical School suggests that this isn’t true. In either case, however, it’s important that Baby gets the right amount of iron, so if they are constipated, consult with your pediatrician about what to do. Since Baby needs iron in their diet whether they are constipated or not it’s important not to reduce their iron intake unless your pediatrician recommends it.