With so much information about weaning abound, it can sometimes be difficult to separate myths from facts. One common misconception is the notion that meat should not be introduced early in the weaning journey. Given the tough texture, it is understandable why some parents hold off feeding their babies red meat. However, with the right cooking method and serving size, meat can be introduced as soon as 6 months of age! Learn why it is encouraged to introduce meat early on, how to serve meat to babies and optimising the absorption of iron.
Introducing meat early to babies
There are two main reasons for starting babies on meat;
Boost iron intake
Explore different textures and flavours
Importance of Iron
Red meat like beef, lamb and liver are the highest source of haem iron, which is more readily absorbed by the body than non-haem iron found in plant-based foods. Iron deficiency is the most frequently observed nutritional deficiency in infants because babies undergo rapid growth from 6 months to two years of age, and their need for iron in their diet also increases.
Babies are born with iron reserves that have been established during the last trimester of pregnancy, but the iron stores begin to deplete at around 6 months of age . If your baby was born prematurely or had a low birth weight, their iron stores may have been exhausted even earlier . Likewise, if you experienced iron deficiency during pregnancy, your baby may also not have enough iron stores .
Insufficient iron intake in babies can lead to a decrease in the red blood cell count, which affects the transport of oxygen to their organs, including the brain. It can also cause both sensory and cognitive impairments, resulting in potential learning difficulties .
Introduce different textures and flavours
Early exposure to diverse flavours can shape a baby's palate. Introducing a wide range of tastes from a young age can make them more open to trying new foods as they grow, potentially reducing picky eating habits and increasing the likelihood of a balanced diet.
How To Serve Meat To Babies
Depending on your weaning style, there are a few ways to serve meat to your baby. Finely minced, grounded or mashed slow-cooked meat are perfect options! To make sure that the meat is not a choking hazard for your baby, ensure it is moist and tender.
Do not serve any processed meat to your baby as it is very high in sodium and nitrates, which are not required in a baby’s diet.
Here are some ideas on how to serve meat healthily to your babies
Puréed- Add some cooked meat into a blender with a little broth or water until it runs smooth. You could also add some vegetables like carrots and tomatoes.
Mashed- Blend the desired meat into a slightly thicker texture and add into mashed potatoes or congee. To save time preparing it yourself, you can also let your little one try our Beef & Spinach Congee that is packed with iron and a great source of protein.
Finger Food- Cut the meat into small pieces, around 2 inches long, roughly the length and width of an adult finger. This is perfect if your baby is learning to pick up his or her food, and a great way to practise their motor skills.
How to maximise absorption of iron
Did you know that Vitamin C can boost the absorption of iron from food? Vitamin C increases the bioavailability of iron, making iron more easily absorbed by the body.
Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, and melons. Additionally, you can find plenty of vitamin C in foods like broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and leafy greens! Consider adding a fruit or vegetable rich in vitamin C as a side snack for your baby.