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Your baby needs iron

Iron is a vital nutrient in your baby’s diet, as it helps make the haemoglobin in his red blood cells that carry oxygen to your baby’s growing, active body.

After about six months, the iron store your baby was born with starts to run out, so it is really important that you start introducing iron-rich foods to your baby.

Introducing iron-rich foods at six months

Some really good iron-rich foods include meat, lentils, spinach, eggs and fish. You can fork mash some of these foods (tinned salmon) or purée them (meat, cooked lentils). You can also give your baby chunks of hard-boiled eggs as finger food, for example.

Vitamins

First and foremost, make sure you’re introducing your baby to a huge variety of foods from all the different food groups. Your baby’s diet should include lots of different colours and fruits and vegetables. Don’t feed him the same foods every day.

There are lots of vitamins and trace minerals that your baby needs. The most usual vitamins that are supplemented are:

Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, mango

Vitamin A – found in carrots, sweet potatoes, cheese

Vitamin D – manufactured by the skin in sunshine and limited amounts in food

Vitamin drops

Children’s multi-vitamin drops contain vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D and some other vitamins and trace minerals.

If you are breastfeeding your baby you should introduce a vitamin drop at six months along with solids. Do this even if he has a great weaning diet and is exposed to a lot of different food.

If you are formula-feeding your baby, you will need to introduce a vitamin drop when your baby is drinking less than 500ml of formula a day.

If your baby was born premature or is small for dates he may be prescribed vitamin drops.

Your baby’s vitamin drops can be given with a dropper into his mouth. Before you give your baby any vitamins make sure you are giving the right dose – if your baby takes several supplements they could receive too much of a certain vitamin, which can be bad for his health. Also, check that he isn’t allergic to any of the ingredients. Choose a multi-vitamin designed for children.

Vitamin D

We get most of our vitamin D from the sunshine, and in the UK unfortunately we cannot manufacture enough in our skin from sun exposure between October and March. If your baby has dark skin or is very covered up he will produce even lower levels of vitamin D in his skin. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the National Public Health bodies recommend vitamin D supplements for children. Ask your health visitor if you are eligible for free vitamin supplements. It’s very important to follow these new guidelines for vitamin drops, and to talk to your GP if you think your child might be more at risk of vitamin D deficiency. See our article about vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin for more information.

Breastfed babies will need to take a vitamin D supplement after four weeks of age if their mum did not take vitamin D during pregnancy. This is even more important if the baby’s mum is dark-skinned, works night shifts or is covered up with clothes (for example, for cultural reasons).

Summary:

  • From the age of six months onwards, give your baby lots of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, lentils, eggs, and fish
  • Babies living in the UK, are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is because we get most of our vitamin D from the sun
  • Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK and is more likely in babies with dark skin so seek medical advice if you feel your baby may be at risk
  • Vitamin D drops are recommended for breastfed babies from one month if their mum did not take vitamin D during pregnancy
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