Iron for breastfed babies

At birth, babies have a natural reserve of iron accumulated during the last trimester of pregnancy. However, these iron reserves begin to deplete around 4-6 months of age due to baby's rapid growth and increasing blood volume. While breast milk contains relatively low levels of iron, it is highly bioavailable, meaning it is absorbed more efficiently by the infant's body compared to the iron in formula. But breast milk alone does not provide sufficient iron to meet the growing baby’s needs. This depletion necessitates the introduction of additional iron sources once baby starts solid foods at 6 months.

Introducing iron-rich foods, such as pureed meats, iron-fortified cereals, beans, and leafy green vegetables, helps prevent iron deficiency anemia, which can lead to developmental delays and impaired cognitive function. Starting iron-rich foods at 6 months ensures that babies receive adequate iron to support their developmental needs, complementing the high bioavailability of iron from continued breastfeeding. This approach helps maintain optimal iron levels during a critical period of growth and development.

Iron is crucial for:

📏Growth and Development: Iron is vital for the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Adequate oxygenation is essential for the rapid growth and development of infants, particularly for brain development

🤢Immune Function: Iron plays a significant role in the development and function of the immune system. Adequate iron levels help protect babies from infections and support overall immune health

🧠Cognitive Development: Iron is crucial for neurological development. It is involved in myelination, the process of forming the protective sheath around nerves, which is essential for efficient nerve transmission and brain function

Iron deficiency anemia can lead to:

- Developmental Delays: Iron deficiency can impair cognitive and motor development, leading to long-term developmental issues

- Behavioral Problems: Low iron levels can affect a baby's temperament and behavior, causing irritability and reduced attention span

- Weakened Immune System: Iron deficiency can compromise the immune system, making infants more susceptible to infections

Thus, maintaining adequate iron levels through a combination of continued breastfeeding and the introduction of iron-rich complementary foods is essential for ensuring healthy growth and development in infants.

What can I eat while breastfeeding?

Science says you can eat whatever you want while breastfeeding. Spicy food, cauliflower, broccoli, coffee, alcohol (in moderation), beans, dairy. There is no restricted list. You also do not need to maintain a perfect diet in order to provide quality milk for baby. Research tells us that the quality of your diet actually has little influence on your milk. Your body is designed to make milk to provide for and protect baby even when you’re not providing for yourself. A poor diet is more likely to affect you than your baby. Occasionally your calorie and fluid intake can impact your milk VOLUME, but not the NUTRIENTS.

  • Eat to hunger
  • Drink to thirst
  • Vitamin/mineral supplements are not necessary if you eat a reasonably well balanced diet or unless you’re deficient in particular micronutrients
  • What you eat changes the color and flavor of your milk but not the nutrients
  • Nutrients is determined by how often you empty the breast. When you’re feeding around the clock for a newborn the nutrients are different than when you’re feeding a few times a day for a toddler.
  • Your fat intake does not affect the amount of fat in your milk. It can change the kinds of fats (balance of “good” vs. “bad” fats) in your milk to some extent.
  • Eat whatever you like, whenever you like, in the amounts that you like and continue to do this unless baby has an obvious reaction to a particular food.
  • Some food proteins (such as cow’s milk protein or peanut protein) do pass into milk. If you or your family has a history of food allergies, you may wish to limit or eliminate the allergens common in your family.
  • Avoiding foods during pregnancy or breastfeeding does not help to prevent allergies in your child.

Typically whatever a food does to you it may do to baby. If you eat cabbage and it gives you gas, it may give baby gas! Or not! Some times you just have to try a food and see what it will do to your baby. Younger babies are more sensitive than older babies. So if your cauliflower upset your newborn’s tummy, wait a few weeks and try it again. As their system develops, they may be able to tolerate things they couldn’t when they were first born.

Caffeine and breast milk

An average cup of coffee can contain 95mg of caffeine, but some can contain as much as 500! Which is important to know when breastfeeding as generally considered safe to drink up to 300 mg per day— about 2–3 cups of coffee or 3–4 cups of tea.

The caffeine content of coffee depends on many factors, such as:

• Type of coffee beans: different varieties of coffee beans naturally contain different amounts of caffeine.

• Roasting: Lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts.

• Type of coffee: caffeine content can vary significantly between regularly brewed coffee, espresso, instant coffee and decaf coffee.

• Serving size: “One cup of coffee” can range anywhere from 30–700 ml (1–24 oz), greatly affecting the total caffeine content.

• One cup of brewed coffee (8 oz) contains about 70–140 mg of caffeine, or about 95 mg on average

• One shot of espresso is generally about 30–50 ml (1–1.75 oz), and contains about 63 mg of caffeine

• Instant coffee usually contains less caffeine than regular coffee, with one cup containing roughly 30–90 mg

• Decaf has about 0–7 mg per cup, with the average cup containing 3 mg

Want to enjoy a coffee alternative that gives all the feels while still being breastfeeding supportive? My two breastfeeding friendly favorites are @wearerasa and @milkstabrew.