safe motherhood

Feeding your baby

Vitamins and iron

According to Department of Health guidelines, babies between seven months and a year need nearly as much iron as adult men. Good sources of iron are lean red meat, liver, sardines, lentils, dried fruit, green vegetables, such as peas, spinach, broccoli, and fortified cereals such as Weetabix.

Vegetables and fruits that contain vitamin C promote the absorption of iron from non-meat foods if they are eaten together. Zinc is important for growth, development, and healing. It is found in foods that are also good sources of protein: lean meat, egg yolk, cheese, wholewheat foods, oats, lentils and peas.

Vitamin D is the one vitamin essential for the absorption of calcium and bone development and it can be made by the action of the sun on the skin. Food sources include fatty fish, margarine, egg yolk, butter, wholemilk, and fortified cereals.

Green, red and orange vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, mangoes and apricots contain carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A promotes growth and healthy bones, teeth and gums and protects against respiratory infections.

Vitamin drops

The Department of Health recommends that women who are breastfeeding should take a supplement of vitamin D. This is partly because levels of sunshine in the UK do not create sufficient vitamin D in the skin in the winter. Very few women have insufficient vitamin D in their breastmilk, but it is important to avoid deficiencies when the baby's bones are growing fast.

For the same reason, government guidelines state that breastfed babies above the age of six months should take vitamin drops as a nutritional safety net. The drops contain vitamins A, D and C and are suitable for vegetarians. Formula-fed babies should not be given a vitamin supplement because formula milk already has added vitamins and too many of the fat-soluble vitamins - A and D - can cause serious health problems.

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