Meeting Your Baby’s

Iron Needs

Six month old baby sitting in high chair ready to eat iron-rich foods

Meeting your baby’s iron needs is very important, especially at around 6 months of age. This is because the iron stores transferred to them from mama during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy are now starting to decrease (1). Babies do not get enough iron from breast milk to meet their iron needs; however, if you are feeding your baby formula, it is likely fortified with iron. 

To ensure that you are meeting your baby’s iron needs, you can introduce iron-rich foods as the first foods when you start feeding solids (2). Read on to learn more about meeting your baby’s iron needs.


The Role of Iron for Your Baby

Iron is an essential mineral required for many functions of the body. It is important that you are meeting your baby’s iron needs to ensure your baby is as healthy as can be. 


Iron is essential for: 

    •     Making red blood cells 
    •     DNA synthesis 
    •     Metabolism of food 
    •     Brain development & function 
    •     Moving oxygen from the lungs to organs & muscles around the body (1,3)


Babies who do not meet their iron needs may be: 

    •     Less physically active
    •     Developing slowly
    •     Cranky or fussy
    •     Look pale 
    •     Have a decreased appetite (3). 


This can lead to problems later in life such as, issues concentrating, short attention span, poor performance at school, tiredness, and weakness (3).

Meeting Your Baby’s Iron Needs

Babies iron needs:

6– 12 months: 11mg/ day 

1 to 3 years: 7 mg/day (3)


To meet your baby’s iron needs when introducing solids, one option is  to start with an iron-fortified cereal. There are many options at the store, and it may be confusing to decide which one to pick. 


Here are some tips when choosing an iron-fortified infant cereal: 

    • Choose a multigrain/wheat-based cereal – this challenges a wheat allergy early on 
    • Avoid choosing only rice based cereal due to traces of arsenic – a small amount of rice in a mixed cereal, or rotating rice with other grains is ideal
    • Choose an option that mixes with formula or breast milk (not water) – this offers your baby more nutrients
    • Choose a cereal that is not mixed with fruit – this helps develop baby’s taste for bland flavours (2)


If you choose not to offer cereal, there are many other options for you to ensure you are meeting your baby’s iron needs.


Iron-Rich Food Sources for Baby

There are many sources of iron-rich food that you can feed your baby when you start to introduce solids. Offering a variety of iron-rich foods each day can help to ensure that you are meeting your baby’s iron needs (3). 


Iron-rich foods include: 

Animal products

    •     Beef
    •     Pork
    •     Chicken
    •     Fish – salmon, pollock, trout, flounder 
    •     Eggs

Plant-based products 

    •     Legumes/ beans – black beans, lentils, chickpeas 
    •     Tofu
    •     Seeds – hemp, flax, sesame 
    •     Enriched pastas & bread 
    •     Vegetables – spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts

Increasing Iron Absorption for Baby

To ensure you are meeting your baby’s iron needs, you can increase absorption by combining iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C. Some sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, oranges, red peppers, strawberries, mango, and green pepper (3). Visit our Instagram, @mamababynutrition for more tips on increasing iron absorption.

Final Notes from The Nest

Meeting your baby’s iron needs is important for your baby’s optimal health. Focus on giving a variety of iron-rich food sources every day. For more personalized recommendations for iron intake or supplementation, consult a Registered Dietitian.

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  1. Unger SL, Fenton TR, Jetty R, Critch JN, O’Connor DL. Iron requirements in the first 2 years of life. Paediatr Child Health. 2019; 24(8):555-558.
  2. Cameron SL, Taylor RW, Heath ALM. Development and pilot testing of Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS – a version of Baby-Led Weaning modified to address concerns about iron deficiency, growth faltering and choking. BMC Pediatrics. 2015;15(1).
  3. Canadian Paediatric Society. Iron needs of babies and children. Paediatr Child Health. 2007;12(4):333-334.