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New Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines stress the importance of iron

The increased focus on the importance of iron intake in infancy in the newly released Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines has been welcomed by a leading Australian childhood nutrition expert.

The Guidelines, released last week by the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council), include an emphasis on making sure infants’ early solid foods – which begin at around six months – are rich sources of iron.

Local expert, Professor Peter Davies, who is from the Children’s Nutrition Research Centre in Brisbane, said the emphasis on the importance of iron was welcomed and could provide real benefits.

“Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world and represents a significant public health issue, as adequate iron is critical for a child’s growth and development,” Professor Davies said.

The new guidelines state that infants should ideally be exclusively breastfed to around six months of life, and from then “Introducing solid foods at around six months is necessary to meet the infant’s increasing nutritional and developmental needs”.

The type of solid foods which are introduced are important as they need to contain good amounts of iron: “…start with iron-containing foods, including iron-enriched infant cereals, pureed meat, poultry and fish (all sources of haem iron), or cooked tofu and legumes”, the guidelines state.

In Australia, iron-enriched infant cereals such as rice infant cereal are already often provided as a first food as they are likely to pose no allergic responses and are easy to digest. They also have the correct pureed consistency and can contain up to 50% of the daily iron requirement of an infant.

Professor Davies also stressed that, where possible, mothers should continue to breastfeed during the introduction of solids and that regular cow’s milk as the main drink should be avoided until after 12 months.

“Continued breastfeeding, or the use of infant formula, until at least 12 months of age is important for the good nutrition of the infant”, he said.

* Professor Peter Davies is a member of the Regional Advisory Board of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute.
About The Nestlé Nutrition Institute:  For more than 60 years, Nestlé has contributed to the continuing nutrition education of health professionals. The formation of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute formalises this long-standing commitment at a global level. The Institute invites health professionals in the area of infant, clinical and performance nutrition to a constant exchange of knowledge and nutrition expertise. This communication initiative comprises workshops, publications, educational material and scholarships.
Important Notice: The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that pregnant women and new mothers be informed of the benefits and superiority of breast feeding – particularly the fact that it provides the best nutrition and protection from illness for babies. Mothers should be given guidance on the preparation for, and maintenance of lactation, with special emphasis on the importance of a well-balanced diet both during pregnancy and after delivery. Unnecessary introduction of partial bottle-feeding or other foods and drinks should be discouraged since it will have a negative effect on breast feeding.
Similarly, mothers should be warned of the difficulty of reversing a decision not to breast-feed. Before advising a mother to use an infant formula, she should be advised of the social and financial implications of her decision: for example, if a baby is exclusively bottle-fed, more than one can (800g) per week will be needed, so the family circumstances and costs should be kept in mind. Mothers should be reminded that breast-milk is not only the best, but also the most economical food for babies. If a decision to use an infant formula is taken, it is important to give instructions on correct preparation methods, emphasising that unboiled bottles or incorrect dilution can lead to illness.
  • Found naturally in breast milk and added to formula milk. After that, it’s up to mum to make sure they get enough iron from their solids, not hard if you keep it healthy

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  • I always kept a close eye on this with my twins as we don’t eat meat.

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  • very informative, no one really thinks of iron deficiency in little ones, thanks for sharing.

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  • My children couldn’t tolerate ‘infant cereals’, they either threw them up or flat out refused them, I was always worried they weren’t getting the iron they needed.

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  • An informative article thanks for sharing

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  • Iron is important in the diets of adults, children and babies. If you’re deficient in iron, you really can get quite sick, so it makes sense that it’s even more important for babies with developing bodies.

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  • There is always such a big emphasis on iron in our diets. Makes sense that infants need it too!

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  • thanks I never knew that, great to learn always

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  • Informative article & pro breastfeeding even though the article’s author is on Nestles nutritional board!

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  • Thanks for the information. I didnt realize iron was such a important part of babies diet

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  • iron is important to all of us

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  • you do need to be mindful of balancing all of the vitamins and nutrients for little ones without causing an upset tummy

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  • Useful information, thanks for sharing.

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  • thank you sharing this article good read

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  • Great advice! A truly motivational article!

    Reply

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