In a major departure from conventional advice, Canadian guidelines say parents should be offering their six-month-old infants iron-rich foods like beef, pork, fish, poultry, tofu, beans and eggs two or more times a day on a daily basis.
Prior to 2012, Health Canada guidelines previously advised that babies start out eating fortified infant cereals, followed by fruits and vegetables, then meats as they transition to solid foods. However, a thorough review of the scientific evidence netted out that introducing meat and alternatives as baby’s first solid food made good nutritional sense.
Survey research commissioned by Canada Beef with 310 moms across the country, spring 2017* found some alarming gaps in information and understanding of these relatively new feeding recommendations.
- 40% of respondents were unaware that Health Canada recommends meats and alternatives as first foods for babies.
- 45% were unaware that the iron found in meats is better absorbed than the iron found in plant-based foods.
- 49% were unaware that iron deficiency anemia in infants is associated with irreversible developmental delays.
- 70% of Canadian mothers unaware that babies 7 to 12 months need 11 mg of iron per day – that’s nearly 40 per cent more than is required of a full-grown man
With the respondents stating that physicians are the primary source of information for infant feeding guidelines, the medical community has a strong role to play in helping mom’s take the steps to implement the best feeding practices for infants at six months of age.
Refresher of the Recommendations
Experts from Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada state the rationale for this change in infant feeding practices is two-fold:
- Iron is critical for a baby’s growth and cognitive, neurological, motor and behaviour development.
- By about six months, a baby’s iron stores start to diminish and those solely fed breast milk will not meet their iron requirements and are in danger of becoming anemic or iron-deficient. Iron deficiency during infancy and childhood may affect proper brain development, which is irreversible.
Nature has provided iron-rich foods like meat that are perfectly compatible with the way humans absorb iron – very efficiently. Adding meat to a meal also helps our bodies absorb up to four times the amount of iron from foods containing non-heme iron like beans, lentils, green vegetables, bread and cereals.
Given the small size of baby’s stomach, serving meat at each meal make good nutritional sense to ensure infants and toddlers get the iron they need.
Here are some helpful educational resources to share: 45 sec video:
How to transform a simple ‘Mom & Dad’ meal into a nutritious meal for baby? Click here for complimentary resources of what Mom’s Need to Know.
Iron for Baby booklet:
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* The Infant Feeding Survey was commissioned by Canada Beef and the Canadian Pork Council on the topic of introducing meats into babies’ diets. A total of 310 mothers with an infant aged newborn up to 23 months participated between April 13-16, 2017. Research was conducted by People Talking Market Research Services using online panelists from the Angus Reid Forum.