We've teamed up with Jenna Hope, our expert child nutritionist who helps us create our most loved nutrient-dense dishes for babies and toddlers.
Today we're focusing on iron.
Iron is considered to by one of the most important nutrients for babies and toddler, and they need more between the ages of 6 months and 2 years than at other points in their lives.
We asked Jenna why babies and toddlers need iron, what the best food sources of iron are for little ones, and how much iron babies and toddlers should be consuming each day.
Why do babies and toddlers need iron?
Iron is a key micronutrient which plays a role in making haemoglobin, which supporting oxygen transport around the body and energy production. Haemoglobin is what gives blood its red colour.
Babies and toddlers need iron for their brains to develop normally, and babies who don't get enough iron in their diets early on can struggle with sensory, cognitive and motor development. Ensuring your child is consuming an adequate iron intake is essential to supporting their energy and general wellbeing.
If a baby or toddler doesn't get enough iron, this can lead to an iron-deficiency condition called anaemia. This is when red blood cells can't carry enough oxygen to your body's muscles and organs.
Symptoms anaemia in babies include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Slow weight gain
- Pale skin
- A lack of appetite
If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby, then it's important to speak to your GP or health visitor about your concerns.
What are the best food sources of iron for babies?
Most newborn babies have sufficient levels of iron in their bodies for the first 4-6 months of their lives, which comes from their mother's blood carried via the placenta in the womb. Babies this young do not need any additional iron.
If your baby is formula fed, then they should be able to get the iron they need from their formula which is fortified with additional nutrients to support your baby's development.
The best plant-based sources of iron include spinach, peas, green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, dates, white beans, chickpeas, oats, lentils, amaranth and quinoa. Bread and cereal products are also sometimes fortified with iron.
If your baby's diet includes meat then beef, lamb, dark poultry meat and seafood are all sources of iron. Egg yolks also iron-rich, too. Iron found in meats is generally more easily absorbed by the body.
Top tip - you can increase the amount of iron you can absorb from plant foods by adding a source of vitamin C. A great way to do this is by adding lemon juice to a meal which contains a source of iron. We do this with some of our popular Mamamade recipes, too!
How much iron should my baby be consuming each day?
From birth to 6 months, babies only need a small amount of iron through breastmilk or formula, and no additional iron is needed through diet or supplements.
Their need for iron is greatest at around 7 to 12 months where it’s recommended to consume 7.8mg per day, so it's wise to offer a source of iron with every meal.
Between 12 months and 3 years old toddlers should be consuming 6.9mg per day, so one plant-rich iron food source should be enough.
It's important to remember that while iron is a key micronutrient, too much iron can be harmful (as with many nutrients). Your baby or toddler should be able to get all of the iron they need through a balanced diet alone, and there is no need to supplement.
If you're concerned that your baby or toddler may not be getting enough key nutrients in their diet alone, then try one of our bundles designed specifically for your little one's stage of development.
Our meals are nutrient-dense and packed with organic, plant-based ingredients ensuring every bite is packed with goodness for little tummies.