Given the increased rates of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in U.S. children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing iron rich complementary foods around 6 months of age, including red meat and vegetables with higher iron content.
If your baby has been mostly breastfeeding, he may benefit from baby food made with meat, which contains more easily absorbed sources of iron and zinc that are needed by 4 to 6 months of age. Meat also provides iron in a more readily digestible form compared to the iron found in fortified cereals.
When you introduce meat:
- Cook it well. Make sure that any meat you give your baby has been prepared safely and is well-cooked, not raw. There should be no “pink” color visible. If the meat is dry it can be hard to swallow. Adding a small amount of breast milk or formula may help.
- Cut into small pieces. Chewing is a challenge for babies beginning complementary foods, so be sure to grind up the meat, or cut it into pieces appropriate to your baby’s age and ability.
- Serve small portions. Remember that babies eat very small servings of complementary foods in the beginning, with just one or two teaspoons to start. This also allows your baby time to learn how to swallow solids.
- Vary your choices. “Red meat” may be the first iron-rich meat that comes to mind, but poultry, fish, and tofu are other nutrient-dense options in this food group.
- Be patient. Don't be discouraged if your baby cries or turns away when you try to feed him. This is a new food texture so it may take a few tries before he's comfortable eating it. To keep him from getting overly hungry or frustrated, you can try alternating breast milk (or formula) between half-spoonfuls of food.
Learn more about how and when to introduce a variety of solid foods here.