Your baby’s first foods should be good sources of iron. From a nutritional standpoint, the need for starting babies on solids is because their bodies’ need for iron is greater than breastmilk or formula alone can provide. Naturally, the foods you’ll want to choose to introduce your baby to first, are going to be foods that are high in iron. You have several choices:
- Meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish
- Egg yolks
- Legumes and lentils
- Tofu and soybeans
- Iron-fortified baby cereal
Iron content in 100g of selected foods:
- Cooked chicken liver: 11.63 mg (see note on safety concern)
- Cooked beef liver: 6.54 mg (see note safety concern)
- Mixed grain iron-fortified infant cereal prepared with whole milk: 6.38 mg
- Cooked egg yolk: 4.4 mg
- Cooked roast beef: 3.23 mg
- Boiled chickpeas: 2.89 mg
- Boiled black beans: 2.1 mg
- Regular tofu: 1.84 mg
- Light tuna, canned: 1.53 mg
- Cooked ground pork: 1.23 mg
- Cooked chicken thigh: 1.33 mg
- Cooked chicken breast: 1.03 mg
- Cooked wild atlantic salmon: 1.03 mg
Unfortunately, total iron content of a food doesn’t nicely equal the amount of iron a person will absorb.
- Animal sources of iron are much better absorbed than vegetarian sources
- Foods eaten alongside iron sources can increase or decrease absorption
However, any of the above choices is still considered to be a good choice for helping to boost a baby’s iron status. Contrast the list above with the one below. These are all foods babies are commonly started on.
- Cooked sweet potato: 0.72 mg
- Avocado: 0.55 mg
- Cooked carrots: 0.34 mg
- Banana: 0.26 mg
These foods are all
- low in total iron
- vegetarian sources and therefore not very absorbable
Once your baby has accepted a variety of high iron foods and is eating them 1-2 times a day, you can add in fruits and vegetables.
Some people like to introduce veggies before fruits because they think that their child won’t accept the veggies once they’ve had a taste for fruit. Although there is nothing wrong with this order, it’s also not necessary. Breastmilk and formula taste sweeter than veggies so if this were true then veggies would never be accepted! Since veggies can taste a bit bitter, your baby may not develop a taste for them the first time you offer them. But keep persisting. Keep offering. Studies show that it can take between 15-20 tastes before a baby or child will accept a new food. It can be very frustrating to prepare some food only to have it rejected but find comfort in knowing that it’s normal!
Now your baby is eating:
- high iron foods
Once your baby is regularly eating high iron foods, veggies, and fruit, you can add in grain products such as
- toast cut into strips
- puffed wheat
Once your baby turns 8- 9 months old, you can add in dairy products such as
- plain full fat yogur
- cheese (grated or cut into small strips, or cubes)
- cottage cheese
Fresh, fluid milk should wait until your baby is between 9-12 months old and is regularly consuming high iron foods. The milk proteins in cheese and yogurt have been broken down by the bacteria used to make them. The broken down proteins are easier on the baby’s developing gut. The intact proteins in fresh milk can sometime irritate a baby’s gut and cause some bleeding. Additionally, fresh milk is low in iron so your baby should still be drinking breastmilk or formula for the iron content.
|Age||Foods to Introduce|
|4-7 months||High iron foods|
|7-8 months||Fruits and veggies|
|8-9 months||Grain products, cheese, yogurt|
These are approximate timelines.