Increasing Iron

 

The theme of increasing iron levels in a baby/toddler/preschooler is one that comes up time and time again. We struggled with this in my son for over a year and I did a lot of reading up on what seems to work and not work for kids.

If your child’s main source of nutrition beyond 6 months is milk then he/she is at risk for iron deficiency. Iron is stored in the baby’s body until around 6 mo., then it needs to be ingested from food. (This is one of the reasons mom needs so much more iron while pregnant, the fetus takes it all and stores up for later use).

If your child’s blood test for lead comes back high then increasing iron in his/her diet is a good idea because they compete with each other. Even if your child is not iron deficient then some of this may be of interest, this is such a rapid time of growth and iron needs are high for kids.

Baby’s first foods should contain iron. Recommendations about first foods from the American Academy of Pediatrics  are now more liberal than they have ever been. When baby shows signs of being ready to eat, any healthy food except honey is OK. It is best to start slow – not combine too many foods at once – so you can discern if there is a reaction or allergy.

Against what we conventionally thought, meat may be a good first food! Lamb chops were one of my son’s first foods, he seemed to enjoy holding it and sucking on it to get the flavor.

Offering green leafy vegetables – spinach especially. Make spinach pancakes/fritters. Mix baby spinach leaves into smoothies or pancake batter (in blender).

There is no doubt that breastmilk beyond age 1 is a wonderful source of nutrition, but if the child is iron deficient then emphasizing food before breastfeeding may work to get more iron in. If the child is drinking cow’s milk at this point then same idea: offer water instead of milk at meals and try giving the milk at the end of the meal after food.

Iron fortified products – there are some good options out there. Rainbow Light makes flavorless powder in pre-measured packages that can be added to smoothies or mixed into foods (applesauce, etc). These are great for on the go. The one thing I do not like about them is the folic acid  in the mix, I prefer vitamin mixes with folate instead. Dr. Furhman’s makes a Pixie Vites vitamin & mineral mix for kids with folate. It is berry flavored – not too strong so can be easily added to smoothies without detecting the flavor. I put it in my son’s chocolate-banana smoothie and he does not detect the berry flavor.

There are many iron fortified cereals on the market. I like the Happy Baby oatmeal – it is sortoff like a flavorless dust that can be mixed into foods and absorbs liquid. We had some success mixing it into plain whole milk greek yogurt with a little water and some jam for flavor. It can also be mixed into pancake batter or with some breastmilk.

Eat foods high in vitamin C along with the iron rich foods. Like tomato sauce with meatballs, oranges in salad with beans, etc.

Cook with cast iron pan!

Other ideas…related to decreasing lead which competes with iron: many people are giving their kids the Earthpaste toothpaste which is edible and has clay in it that is supposed to remove toxins including lead from the body. We tried the lemon one, it tastes good.

The Floradix Floravital supplement is good for building up iron, but tastes very strong and I doubt many kids would like it. I used to take it but then developed an aversion to it where it would make me gag. It is a great product though.

 

Highest Iron foods

Chicken livers – eat in pate or chopped liver, some kids love it! add to soups, stews, meatballs, meat loaf, baked beans, etc

Beef, then other meats

Lentils, then other beans

Molasses – add to pancakes, smoothies, oatmeal ( I love it in cookies).

Spinach

Dried fruits

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