It’s part of a baby’s growth and development milestones to eventually start eating table food. Before it gets to that point, however, babies have to be eased into it. You start with a gradual introduction to solids. Solid food becomes necessary when babies begin requiring more iron and nutrients for their growth and development.
When they were smaller, they used their iron stores that were gathered when they had still been in the womb. They also derived some iron from milk. These iron stores go down as they grow and they need to start sourcing the mineral from other foods.
How to Introduce Solids
Babies have to start with smooth and soft foods, either mashed or puréed. As they get more teeth and get used to the act of chewing, they can move on to minced food, and then eventually to chopped food.
By the time they turn one, they should be able to eat table food, within reason. This means that you still need to look out for choking hazards. Their meat still needs to be cut smaller and you need to pay attention as they eat.
Iron Sources for Babies
As long as they’re actually ready to start on solids, babies will be excited to try new foods. There’s no need to prepare to make sure something tastes good enough for them. You can hold the salt and other seasonings as well as the sweeteners. It’s best that they get used to natural flavors. This might actually help when they reach the normally picky toddler stage.
One of the important things you should pay attention to is the amount of iron they’re getting from these first foods. The following are some iron-rich foods you can include when starting babies on solids.
10. Iron-fortified cereal
It can be rice or oatmeal; just make sure that it’s iron-fortified. You could mix it with milk or water in the early stages. Later, you may offer it as a dry finger food. You might want to delay introducing gluten cereals from wheat, barley, or rye in case of allergies. If your baby was prescribed gluten- and lactose-free milk, then it’s best to stick to rice and oats.
Beef is a protein source that is rich not only in iron, but also zinc, another essential nutrient to babies’ growth and development. It can be ground and mixed with other purées.
Poultry also provides plenty of necessary protein. The dark meat of chicken and turkey, like their muscles in the thigh and drumstick, are also good sources of iron and zinc. Like beef, their meat can be ground and mixed with cereal or vegetable purées.
7. Oily fish
Salmon and tuna are two of the oily fish that can be served to babies not only for their iron, but also for their wonderful oils that are so important in boosting brain. Take care to serve this no more than twice a week as oily fish may also contain small amounts of toxins.
Also rich in iron and protein, tofu makes a great baby food option for vegetarian babies. It does, however, come from soy, which is an allergen, so take some care when introducing it.
Pulses from legumes such as beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils are also abundant in both iron and protein. Besides these, they are also good sources of fiber, which babies could use for healthy bowel movement.
Eggs also have plenty of iron and protein. They are, however, considered a food allergen, so exercise caution in feeding them to babies. Make sure as well that they’re hard-boiled, with the yolk well-cooked to ensure that any possible bacteria are killed.
These would have to be introduced a little later, around 10 months. They should also be cooked and then minced. Mushrooms make tasty iron-rich food for babies. They also have potassium, selenium, and fiber.
2. Root vegetables
Sweet potatoes and beetroot are two of the root vegetables that are rich in iron. You can bake them and then mash for younger babies. Beetroot also makes good soup. Later, sweet potatoes can be baked into “fries” and offered as finger food.
1. Dark green leafy vegetables
Broccoli is at the top of the list of iron-rich dark green leafy vegetables. Blend it with tomato soup and you have a tasty iron-loaded treat. The tomato helps bring out maximum iron content. Other good iron sources are spinach, watercress, and mustard leaves.
You can mix many of these together to create an iron-rich dish for babies. They can also be mixed with other healthy first foods for a nutrient-packed meal. Just make sure that you include one or two iron sources in making baby food to support optimal growth and development.