Iron in the Weaning Diet

by Yara Gholmie, RD 

Full-term infants have adequate iron stores to last until 4 to 6 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that full-term infants receive approximately 1 mg/kg of iron per day, preferable from complementary foods. Formula fed infants should receive ONLY iron-fortified formula. 

Infants between 6 and 12 months of age should consume 11 mg of iron per day

Current recommendations are that meats, such as turkey, chicken, and beef, should be added as one of the first solids to the breastfed infant’s diet. Meats are good sources of high-quality protein, iron, and zinc. They are the best sources of iron and parents shouldn’t delay introduction of meats in their child’s diet, it can be introduced in the first few weeks of weaning. 

Iron-fortified infant cereal (such as rice cereal) is another good solid food option.

For vegans and vegetarians, and for parents who avoid meat for cultural, religious, or ethical reasons: 

  1.  Increase the intake of pulses, eggs, cereals, and vegetables with a high iron content (such as dark green leafy vegetables- spinach, beans, etc.)
  2.  Increase the intake of foods with a good source of Vitamin C to help increase iron absorption (see list of foods rich in vitamin C below)

Cow, goat or soy milk as a drink should be avoided before 1 year of age. 

Tea should be avoided before one year of age.  

Parents should remember that organic convenience foods are not fortified with iron.

Foods rich in iron include:

  • Red meat
  •  Pork
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots
  • Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas
  • Peas

Foods rich in Vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Leafy greens
  • Melons
  •  Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines
  • Tomatoes