Your infant is approaching 6 months old or showing signs of new motor skill development.
Looks like it's time to add some iron-rich foods to the mix for healthy brain and organ development!
For the first 6 months of life, infants thrive off milk for all of their developmental needs. The World Health Organization and Canadian Paediatric Society recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months if possible. Alternatively bottle-feeding pumped breast milk or infant formula can be used when breastfeeding is not a possibility.
At 6 months old, babies can start to show motor skill readiness for the introduction of iron-rich foods. These signs might be sitting up straight by themselves, grasping objects and being willing to chew food in mouth.
I keep highlighting the word “iron-rich”. Why is this nutrient so important in comparison to others?
While breastmilk or formula makes up the majority of nutrients needed through the first year of life with a high protein and fat composition to build and protect vital organs. Iron plays a role in carrying oxygen through our blood to vital organs that help us maintain a healthy brain and body throughout the lifespan.
What happens when infant iron stores are not sufficient during pregnancy or post-pregnancy?
When iron is low anemia can occur. Iron is utilized for the development and maintenance of red blood cells and hemoglobin which work to carry oxygen throughout the body.
The iron in plant-based sources is less readily available to our body than meat based sources. To increase iron-absorption especially in plant-based sources, add vitamin C to your infants diet through foods such as orange slices, potatoes, strawberries and more.
~Non-Heme Sources of Iron~
1) Pulses, including lentils, beans and peas.
2) Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach.
3) Fortified cereals, check label for “iron-fortified”.
5) Sweet potato or squash.
6) Tofu, also a great source of calcium.
8) Oily Fish, no more than 2x/week due to greater risk of toxicity build-up.
10) Meat and Poultry
Wishing you the best of luck implementing these foods in your infants diet!
Jenessa Clark (Ryerson University Nutrition & Food Science)