Iron for infants and children

Why is iron so important in the diet of infants and children?

Iron is a vital nutrient which is essential for healthy blood and normal growth and development.

Infants and young children grow much more rapidly than adults, therefore iron is even more essential for them during this crucial stage.

What happens if my infant does not get enough iron?

Your baby is born with a store of iron which they use up during the first few months of life.

Between four and six months, this iron supply becomes depleted, eventually running out by the time the baby is six months old. Therefore, it is important that you introduce iron into the diet at the four to six month stage.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and can affect the growth and development of infants.

Infants who do not get enough iron can develop iron deficiency anaemia. Anaemia is a reduction in the quantity of the oxygen-carrying pigment haemoglobin in the blood. Symptoms include excessive tiredness, pallor (abnormal paleness of the skin) and poor resistance to infection.

There are many causes of anaemia, but when it is caused by a lack of iron, it is known as iron deficiency anaemia.

According to Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, approximately one in ten two-year-olds were recently found in Ireland to be anaemic.

What are the best sources of iron?

The best source of iron is from meat, chicken and fish.


Iron is also available in cereals, eggs, vegetables and beans, however it is not as easily absorbed into the body as the iron from meat, chicken and fish.

The best thing is to provide a mixture of these foods in the diet.

It is extremely important that you consult a doctor or nutritionist if you plan to raise your child as a vegetarian or vegan. Since the infant won't be eating the very foods which provide the most iron, i.e. meat, they will be at a greater risk of developing problems from iron deficiency. You must ensure they get adequate iron levels through some other source.

Do not give tea or coffee to infants or toddlers as these inhibit the absorption of iron.

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