After the age of 6 months, breast milk needs to be supplemented with other foods so that you can fulfill your baby’s nutritional needs and support the rapid growth during infancy. This is where complementary feeding becomes important in fulfilling nutritional gaps.
Brain Growth During Infancy
Iron needs increase in the early years due to rapid brain growth and development. Between birth and the first year, your baby’s brain doubles in size, and by the third year, has reached 80% of its adult size. This is also the age when a maximum number of synapses, which are important for brain activity, are formed.
Iron plays a role in oxygen absorption in the blood, and is also a component of brain growth and development. Until the age of 6 months, exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to fulfill your infant’s iron needs, but these needs significantly increase after the age of 6 months.
At this age, it is important to continue breastfeeding, but also to introduce iron-rich foods to your child’s diet so that their needs can be met.
A deficiency of iron in the early years can have an impact on your baby’s brain growth, as well as increase their risk of iron-deficiency anemia. Breast milk contains lactoferrin, a protein, as well as Vitamin C, which are important for iron absorption. But as this is inadequate after the age of 6 months, introducing iron rich foods is important.
Take it this way, in order for your baby to grow, he/she needs iron regularly in their meal plan. And when it comes to iron absorption in your little one’s body, bioavailability plays an important role. Homemade foods indeed have iron content, but it is not possible to have iron-rich foods in the baby’s diet regularly. Moreover, these foods can have surprisingly low relative iron bioavailability.
Feed your child foods that are rich in iron - such as fortified cereal, sweet potatoes and beetroot, as well as Vitamin C-rich foods - fruits and vegetables, so that you can prevent iron deficiency during this important stage. Nutrient-dense foods such as fortified cereals can help bridge the nutritional gap, as they provide high levels of nutrients in small quantities, and are perfect for a baby’s small tummy. Fortified cereals are excellent carriers for delivering the daily dose of iron to children. They should be used to complement homemade preparations and breastmilk.
Disclaimer: All the information provided in the blog is for reference purposes only. Please do not consider this as a medical advice. Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions related to your own health or the health of your child.