All About Key Nutrients When Starting Your Baby on Solids

The importance of iron and zinc in your baby’s diet.


The main reason babies need to begin having solid foods at around six months is because they have additional nutrient requirements that they can no longer receive from breast milk alone. These key nutrients are iron and zinc. By the time your pēpi is six months old, in order to receive enough of these nutrients they need to start having food alongside breast milk.

Let’s take a look at why these nutrients are so important for your baby’s growth and development, and which foods are high in these crucial minerals.



When a baby is first born, they have a reserve of iron but by the time they are around six months, their stores drop and they need to consume iron through additional foods while still having breast milk. Between 6-12 months old, your baby requires 10-11mg of iron per day – that’s more than the daily requirement for a 1-3 year old. Iron is a vital component of haemoglobin in the blood, which carries oxygen through the tissues of the body. It’s essential for their brain development and the efficiency of their immune system.

There are two types of iron sources: haem and non-haem.

  • Haem iron found in animal foods such as red meats, fish, poultry and eggs is easily absorbed by the body.
  • Non-haem iron comes from plant-based sources such as tofu, nuts, spinach, lentils, peas and beans. It is not as easily absorbed by the body as haem iron but when non-haem sources are eaten with foods that are high in vitamin C, like lemon, you can increase the amount of iron absorbed by the body.



From 7-12 months and 1-3 years old, your pēpi requires 3mg of zinc per day. Zinc is important for the normal growth of infants and toddlers and is crucial for their brain development, metabolism, cellular growth, and the functioning of their immune system.

Zinc is found in many foods, including red meats, chicken, dark leafy green vegetables, lentils, chickpeas and beans.

If your baby is vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to make sure they are getting the required amount of protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and iodine.