That’s so metal: iron in your baby’s diet

At this point in Baby’s development, iron plays a key role in the growth of his body and brain, so it’s important that he gets enough in his 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 his 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 his little stomach or palate. On the other hand, if Baby is getting all of the iron he needs, your doctor may recommend a high-fiber fruit puree as his 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 his iron starts to come from these sources as he gets 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 his diet can help him absorb and process the iron better, so he can get the most out of his 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 he grows.

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 he is constipated, consult with your pediatrician about what to do. Since Baby needs iron in his diet whether he is constipated or not it’s important not to reduce his iron intake unless your pediatrician recommends it.

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