The iron content of healthy diets for one day for breastfed babies and young children

Dympna Leonard, Petra Buettner, Robyn McDermott, Maria Makrides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Aims: Early childhood anaemia due to iron deficiency is widespread in remote communities across northern Australia. Current recommendations for healthy food to complement breastfeeding at age 6 to 23 months include iron-rich and iron-enriched foods. An electronic nutrient analysis was undertaken to assess the iron content of hypothetical healthy diets for breastfed babies and young children aged 6 to 23 months in Australia, in comparison with their estimated requirements. Methods: Hypothetical diets for 1 day were developed that were consistent with the Foundation Diets for breastfed infants 6 to 12 months and for toddlers 13 to 23 months. Nutrient content was derived using the Australian Food Composition database in FoodWorks 10. The iron content of these two diets were compared with Estimated Average Requirements (EARs) and Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDIs) for iron for infants aged 7 to 12 months and children aged 1 to 3 years. Results: The iron content of the hypothetical diet for breastfed infants aged 6 to 12 months (5.8 mg) was less than the EAR (7 mg, 83%) and the RDI (11 mg, 53%). For young breastfed children aged 13 to 23 months, the iron content of the hypothetical diet was 4.4 mg; above the EAR (4 mg, 110%) but less than RDI (9 mg, 49%). Conclusions: Breastfeeding has health and neurodevelopmental benefits for infants and young children that are particularly important in remote Australia where food insecurity and poor nutrition compromise health and wellbeing. Adequate iron intake is also important for neurodevelopment in early life but healthy diets for breastfed babies and young children may have insufficient iron content to meet requirements. The upcoming revision of the Australian Dietary Guidelines provides an opportunity to consider this issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Sept 2021


  • anaemia
  • breastfed
  • child
  • development
  • infant
  • micronutrients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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