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Breast milk is best for your baby.

Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the Dietitians of Canada recommend that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months and that you continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years or longer along with complementary foods.

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Home / Formula-Feeding / Nutrition for babies / Baby getting enough iron

Is there enough iron in your baby’s diet?

For the first 6 months, breast milk or formula meets all your baby’s nutritional needs, but these needs change as she grows. At 6 months of age, your baby’s iron reserves are depleted, and it becomes necessary to introduce iron-rich solid foods to meet her iron requirements and help prevent iron deficiency.

Iron plays a number of key roles in your baby’s development and is found in:

  • Iron-enriched baby cereals
  • Meat and poultry*
  • Fish*
  • Legumes* (beans, lentils, chick peas)
  • Eggs

* Make sure these are well-cooked.

Foods with iron for your baby: leafy greens and eggs
Fish and peanuts are sources of protein

These iron-rich foods provide protein and iron and should be provided to your baby at least twice a day. They also provide vitamins and other minerals, such as zinc.

Aside from making sure to start with iron-rich foods, there is no special order to introduce new foods to your baby. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, common food allergens, such as peanuts, fish, wheat (including iron-fortified infant cereals with wheat), milk products, soy, and whole eggs, can be introduced from about 6 months of age. There is no evidence that delayed introduction of these foods can prevent your child from developing allergies. This applies even if your child is at high risk for developing an allergy (a child is considered at high risk if a parent or sibling has an allergic condition). Talk to your doctor if you are unsure.

If you are following a vegetarian lifestyle, a well-balanced vegetarian diet may be suitable for your baby. However, if too many foods are excluded, your baby’s diet may not be meeting her requirements. It’s best to consult with a dietitian to make sure she is getting what she needs to grow and develop normally.

Tips for introducing single-grain, iron-fortified cereals

Iron-enriched baby cereals not only contain iron, but other vitamins and minerals as well.

Start with cereals containing only one type of grain (e.g. rice or barley). At the beginning, choose cereals containing no fruit, vegetables, or other additions. Introduce one new food at a time and wait 2 or 3 days between each food to note any allergic reaction. Avoid cereals containing sugar. To prepare the cereal, use infant formula, following instructions on the product label. Serving cereal or any other food in a baby bottle is not recommended. Start by mixing 3 to 5 mL (½ to
1 teaspoon) of dry cereal with liquid and give it to your baby. If she readily accepts it, continue until she is satisfied, adapting to her appetite. Gradually increase the quantity over time.

Once your baby is eating iron-rich foods at least twice a day and has a varied diet, you can introduce other grain products. If your baby accepts different textures, offer her foods like toasts, pita bread, tortillas, breadsticks, unsalted crackers, unsweetened oat ring cereal, and all types of pasta. It is best to choose whole-grain products as they contain more fibre and may help your baby have regular bowel movements.

Bowl of cereal next to a box of cereal