Eggs are a natural choice for baby’s healthy development, starting at 6 monthBy Valerie Johnson, MHSc, RD
Eggs are a natural source of iron, a key nutrient for your baby’s healthy brain development. That’s one of the reasons the newest guidelines from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada recommend introducing eggs starting at six months, or as soon as your child starts eating solids.1
Research shows that by six months, your baby needs iron-rich foods in addition to the iron from breastmilk to keep up with their growing demands. In fact, according to Health Canada’s Dietary Reference Intakes,2 a 7 to 12 month old baby needs more iron than a fully grown man.
Iron is so important for baby’s healthy brain development that Canada’s new guidelines advise parents and caregivers to start by introducing iron-rich foods as baby’s first solid foods.3,4 Starting at 6 months, parents are advised to offer iron-rich foods two to three times a day.
While the new guidelines prioritize foods that are naturally rich in iron, this has not always been the case. Traditionally, babies were fed iron-fortified infant cereal as their first solid food, followed by vegetables and fruit. Foods that are naturally rich in iron, such as meat, poultry, fish and egg yolks were generally introduced a bit later, between about seven to nine months.
With 14 essential nutrients, including six grams of high-quality protein, eggs are a practical way to add an iron-rich food to your baby’s diet. Eggs provide vitamins A, B12, D, E, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorous, zinc as well as healthy fats. Plus, eggs are one of the best natural sources of choline, another key nutrient for early brain development.5,6 Choline affects areas of the brain responsible for memory and life-long learning.6
Another good reason to feed your baby whole eggs early and often is that there is now evidence that this can prevent an allergy.7,8 In the past, parents were advised to delay feeding egg whites until 12 months of age, but the guidelines now recommend whole eggs starting at six months.
Eggs are an easy and inexpensive food to prepare for babies:
- hard-cook a whole egg (make sure that it is well cooked),
- mash the whole egg well (so there are no large pieces),
- mix some with a little breast milk, infant formula or water.
When you first introduce eggs, start by mixing about 1 ½ tsp. (7 mL) of mashed egg with a little breast milk, infant formula or water. Then you can gradually increase the amounts. Let your baby enjoy the natural flavour of eggs. They don’t need any salt, sugar, butter or margarine.
You can feel good about feeding your baby eggs with 14 nutrients, including iron and protein.
Learn more simple ways to prepare eggs for your baby. Check out Health Canada’s feeding tips and menu ideas for your baby’s first 2 years.
Find out more about feeding your baby and food allergies from the Canadian Pediatric Society.
¹ Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months, 2014. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php
² Health Canada. Dietary Reference Intake Tables. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf
³ Lukowski AF et al. Iron deficiency in infancy and neurocognitive functioning at 19 years: evidence of long-term deficits in executive function and recognition memory. Nutr Neurosci 2010; 13:54-70.
⁴ Lozoff B et al. Long-lasting neural and behavioral effects of iron deficiency in infancy. Nutr Rev 2006; 64:S34–43.
⁵ Zeisel SH. Choline: Critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults. Annual Review of Nutrition 2006; 26:229-50.
⁶ Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Food and Nutrition Board, 1998.
⁷ Abrams EM and Becker AB. Food introduction and allergy prevention in infants. Canadian Medical Association Journal. E-pub ahead of print October 19, 2015.
⁸ Koplin JJ et al. Can early introduction of egg prevent egg allergy in infants? A population-based study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 126:807-13.