Role of Iron in Your Baby’s Development

Understanding the connection between iron and your baby’s development

Iron is one of those essential nutrients that support the different vital functions in your baby’s body. From improving focus and energy to enhancing the immune system and ensuring smooth digestion, iron has multiple benefits. Hence, it is necessary for parents to ensure that their babies get enough iron from natural food sources, especially after they complete 6 months. To know more about how iron affects your baby’s development and what factors determine his iron level, read on.

The connection between iron and growth and development

Iron not only stimulates the growth of body cells, but also supports the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells. This nutrient is also important for the growth and functioning of your baby’s brain. Moreover, it helps in developing his or her immune system.

  • Brain development: The baby’s brain starts developing when the pregnancy is just in its 5th week. So, for the brain to develop normally, adequate nutrition is required. Iron is one of the most important nutrients that aid in brain development, as stated before. There are areas in the brain that are linked with memory, learning, and mental functions. These areas usually develop in the last trimester of the pregnancy and fully develop by 2-3 years of age. Therefore, it is very important to choose iron-rich foods for toddlers too.
    • Iron supports several brain processes that influence attention, motivation, memory, and motor control. It is also required for the development of the hippocampus, the part that is responsible for recognition, learning, and memory.
    • You can start giving foods rich in iron to your baby, right from the age of six months. Some of the popular iron-rich foods are apples, green leafy vegetables like spinach, beans, iron-fortified foods, and whole-grain bread.
    • Note that if your baby’s diet doesn’t contain sufficient iron, he or she might face difficulty when it comes to learning and memorizing information.
  • Strong immune system: We all know the importance of a strong immune system to fight against infections and diseases. So, if your baby is falling sick frequently then this is an indication of a weak immune system.
    • A baby’s immune system develops gradually since birth, and slowly gets used to the challenges posed by the external environment. Therefore, a child with a weak immune system is likely to get infected easily.
    • There are various nutrients that can strengthen a baby’s immune system, like iron, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D. These nutrients are easily found in food items like oranges, papaya, lemon juice, egg yolk, fish, etc.
    • Enzymes are vital for the normal functioning of immune system cells and iron is an important component of these enzymes. So, the need for iron-rich foods cannot be emphasised enough.

Factors affecting iron levels in infants

There are various factors that influence the iron levels in a baby’s body:

  • Primarily, the iron level of a woman during pregnancy greatly influences the levels of iron in the baby. If mothers suffer from iron-deficiency or anaemia during pregnancy, there is a high chance that you will find iron deficiency anaemia in babies.
  • The baby’s time of birth also impacts iron levels in the body. Premature babies, or those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, might be at a higher risk of iron deficiency and anaemia.
  • Insufficient complementary feeding might also result in iron deficiency. Hence, complementary foods rich in iron should be started after 6 months of age, along with breast milk, as only breast milk will not be sufficient to fulfil the baby’s requirement of iron and other nutrients.
  • Hygiene is another important factor for maintaining the overall wellbeing of babies. There are certain types of intestinal infestations, due to hookworms and whipworms, which are known to cause iron deficiency in babies. If your house or the baby’s surroundings are not clean then it might lead to infections in his/her body. These infestations might lower your baby’s capacity to absorb iron from regular food items.

By now, you must have a clear idea as to why iron is essential for the healthy growth and development of your infant. So, ensure that his or her diet is enriched with foods containing iron, and also take extra care of hygiene. You can also consult a doctor in case you feel that your little one needs supplements.