Important nutrients your little one needs

Author: The Resident Nutritionist here at Let's Sleep, Thea Doyle

This post explores some of the key nutrient requirements for a 6 month old onwards.


You may have heard that it’s important to offer iron rich foods when your little one first starts solids. Babies are born with a reserve of iron, which comes from their mother’s blood while they are in the womb. For the first 6 months of life, breastfed babies will get what they need from their mother’s milk, or formula fed babies will receive iron from the formula. From 6-12 months of age, a baby's iron needs are the highest they will ever be in their life - 11mg/day is the recommended daily intake (RDI). Even though milk remains the main source of nutrition until 12 months of age, breast or formula alone does not meet their iron requirements. As per the table below, iron requirements drop slightly at the 1 year mark, and then begin to increase from 3 years of age.


Babies and children need iron for their brains to develop normally. Iron is an essential nutrient that makes haemoglobin, a key element of red blood cells. Haemoglobin takes oxygen through the blood to all the cells and is what gives colour to red blood cells. When you don’t have enough iron, red blood cells become small and pale, a condition called anaemia. They can’t carry enough oxygen to your body’s organs and muscles. When babies don’t get enough iron, they may show these signs:

  • Slow weight gain.

  • Pale skin.

  • No appetite.

  • Irritability (cranky, fussy).

There are two different types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron (from animals) is more easily absorbed by the body, however non-heme sources are still appropriate, especially if you/your baby follow a vegetarian/vegan diet. A tip to boost the absorption of iron is to pair iron rich food with vitamin C rich foods e.g. a meat and tomato sauce.

Heme Iron Sources: Beef, lamb, port, veal, chicken, turkey, liver, eggs, fish.

Non Heme Iron Sources: green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green peas, beans), tofu, lentils, chick peas, dates, figs, almonds, oats, quinoa, nuts & seeds.

Fats & Omega 3s:

It’s important to include an abundance of healthy fats in your baby’s diet to aid in this rapid period of growth. Omega-3s, specifically DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids that play an important role in supporting the brain and nervous system’s healthy development and function, especially during the first few years of life with the rapid brain growth and development which takes place. Essential fatty acids are lipids that cannot be synthesised within the body and must be ingested through the diet or from supplements.

EPA and DHA are found mainly in certain fish, although certain brands of eggs may be fortified. Oily fish is the best known source of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish sources rich in omega-3 include canned sardines, salmon, and tuna. Try serving fish in kid-friendly ways, such as baking salmon in a homemade teriyaki or honey sauce, using canned salmon to make fish cakes or crumb fish in an egg and almond mixture then oven bake.

ALA is also an omega 3 fatty acid found primarily in plant sources including flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, but also in some fish and meat. Grass-fed animals tend to have a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids and produce milk and eggs with high levels as well. Other important whole food sources of healthy fats which you should regularly include are olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, avocado, other coconut products & full fat dairy if tolerated.

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is important in the prevention of rickets, a childhood bone condition whereby bones soften and become prone to fractures and breaks. The best way to get vitamin D is via safe sun exposure, however if you live in a climate where it’s often cloudy or difficult to get bub in the sun for short periods of time, then a supplement may be required. These are available to buy over the counter at a pharmacy and are given orally in a droplet form. I recommend the brand Brauer. Food sources of vitamin D that you should include are: sardines, salmon, mackerel, eggs, liver and cod liver oil. The brand of cod liver oil I recommend is the Nordic Naturals range which is made exclusively from Pure Arctic Cod Liver Oil.


Calcium is a mineral found in foods and is stored in our bones and teeth - it’s essential for healthy growth and development. The amount of calcium absorbed is dependent on the amount of calcium consumed and our baby’s vitamin D levels. Therefore, getting enough Vitamin D is important too, as it helps the body absorb calcium from the diet. In Australia, the main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Most people get enough Vitamin D during typical day-to-day outdoor activities. To get enough you need to expose your hands, face and arms (or equivalent area of skin) for about 10-15 minutes between the hours of 10-2pm.

The best food sources of calcium are: full fat dairy (Greek yoghurt, cheese), salmon/sardines (with the bones crushed), chia seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, tahini, leafy green vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage), egg yolk and butter/ghee.

Some fun ways to increase calcium intake include:

  • Making frozen yoghurt ice blocks

  • Adding yoghurt into smoothies

  • Use yoghurt as a dipping sauce as an alternative to mayonnaise

  • Use tahini in dressings and sauces

  • Use nut meals in baking

  • Mash sardines with avocado

  • Make bliss balls with apricots and dried figs

Jazz and Thea have co-written an eBook 'Eat Well Sleep Well' to educate and inspire you with the resources you need to make nourishing food for your baby and set solid foundations around sleep and nutrition early on.

The eBook is available for purchase via the Let's Sleep website - click here to grab a copy!

Thea is the Resident Nutritionist here at Let's Sleep. Thea is passionate about empowering women and Mother's to become the healthiest version of themselves. To book in a complimentary 15 minute discovery call with Thea click here.

52 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All