Irish Medical Organisation

Food choices for infant’s vital in children’s development

Irish Medical Journal Press Release

September 2012 - Volume 105 - Number 8

Official Journal of the Irish Medical Organisation

Food choices for infant’s vital in children’s development

“Weaning a child from milk to solid food during the first year of life is a process that can influence life-long feeding patterns and health,” states a study in this month’s Irish Medical Journal.

The importance of understanding nutrition during infant weaning is the focus of this research from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and DIT School of Biological Sciences.

“Dietary challenges during weaning include providing sufficient critical nutrients such as iron with minimal added sugar and fat and no added salt,” state the authors.

Parental understanding of correct food choices and nutritional sources is vital to a child’s development. The study highlights the challenge for parents and concern for growing youth obesity levels.

The introduction of dietary sources of haem iron from six months of age to coincide with the depletion of iron stores from birth is an important infant feeding issue. Evidence suggests that even mild anaemia in infancy can adversely affect long-term mental and psychomotor development.

Based on the study sample of women of child-bearing age across a socioeconomic divide, the researchers identified the following:

  • Less than one third of mothers could say the correct age for introducing iron to an infant’s diet.
  • 82% of mothers with an infant under 30 months of age reported wanting more information on weaning their children.
  • A quarter of infants over 12 months of age had not received iron-containing red meat before age one year.
  • 29% of women regarded the public health nurse as the most useful source of infant feeding information.

Wider environmental support, including industry and legislative change must also play a role in maintaining best practice in infant feeding. While all commercial baby foods examined in this study were compliant with existing food legislation, 15% of these products did not meet best practice advice in Ireland for infant feeding in that they contained too much fat, sugar or salt.

The apparent lack of knowledge about the importance of iron in the infant diet and concerns over infants’ ability to digest red meat “indicates the need for parental education on infant feeding”, say the authors.

While the authors acknowledge other key sources of nutrition such as cereals and follow-on formulas, recommended red meats are encouraged to provide iron, variety and texture to an infant’s diet.

All references and author names are contained in the full article in this month’s Irish Medical Journal, p266:
“Weaning onto Solid Foods: Some of the Challenges”
For further information contact:

Communications Unit
Irish Medical Organisation
10 Fitzwilliam Place
Dublin 2
Tel. 01 676 7273

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