This question came from an online forum, but I see all the time.
My pediatrician is pushing a fortified cereal for the iron (we've been exclusively breastfeeding). I know red meat is a great source of iron, but if the baby can't really chew it up, then do they get any of the good nutrients, like iron, from it? Is there a way to prepare it so that they can actually swallow it (maybe a meatball)? Also, I guess it okay to give them meat right away? I'm wondering if I should give her iron fortified oatmeal for the iron.
Dear Cereal Confusion,
Unfortunately, pediatricians receive no training in infant nutrition or breastfeeding. At my local La Leche I heard from a pediatrician who said that her entire nutrition/breastfeeding training came from a one hour class during medical school. As you know, this research is updated constantly. First of all, iron-fortified cereals were designed for formula-fed babies, not breastfed babies. The iron in breastmilk is much more bioavailable than anything found in "fortified" products.
As far as iron-dense foods? Beans and chickpeas, (give them a little squish to prevent choking if your baby doesn't have many teeth), lentils, green leafy veggies (like broccoli), dark poultry meat, ground beef, egg yolks and prunes and raisins, have lots of iron.
Also - and I know this doesn't help you right now - but for your future babies make sure that you don't let your doctor or midwife cut the umbilical cord until it is done pulsating. That way your baby is getting all of his blood out of the placenta (and therefore iron stores) before the cord is separated from his body. Babies whose moms do this have much better iron levels for the first year of life than other babies.