Six-month-olds can be fed meat, fish, poultry and alternates at every meal, according to Canadian guidelines.

"While meat and fish are traditional first foods for some aboriginal groups, the common practice in North America has been to introduce infant cereal, vegetables and fruit as first complementary foods," reads the statement from Health Canada, and the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Breastfeeding Committee of Canada.

"Infants should be offered iron containing foods two or more times each day. They should be served meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives daily. The amount of food offered should be guided by the infant's hunger and satiety cues."

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Babies can start to diversify their diets beyond pureed squash and mushy peas at six months, new guidelines suggest. (Derek Oliver/Canadian Press)

Daily or frequent consumption of iron-rich meat, poultry and fish "can contribute considerably to meeting infant iron requirements," the document said.

Health Canada turned down a request for an interview with CBC News on last week's guidelines.

"The updated guidelines for health professionals with regards to infant nutrition have been re-formatted so that information that was in an earlier version of the document is now more prominent," the department said in an email.

"However, our recommendations to health professionals have not changed" since 2004.

previous recommendation from 1998 suggested iron-fortified cereals as the first foods, said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a research scientist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

"One of the things that people have been struggling with in terms of the child nutrition world is really iron deficiency," Maguire said.

"We don't have very good data in Canada but it looks like up to 30 per cent of Canadian children in the early years have problems with low iron and this recommendation is directed at trying to alleviate that problem."

Exclusive breastfeeding

The bulk of recommendations continue to stress exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, noting that nursing can continue to provide the main source of nutrition as other foods are introduced.

Canada endorses the World Health Organization's guidelines on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, which remain a source of debate

It's recommended that breastfed infants receive 400 IU of vitamin D supplements every day.

The guidelines also say that feeding changes are unnecessary for most common health conditions such as colic, that true constipation in infants is rare and reflux rarely needs treatment.

In 2007, Statistics Canada reported that the proportion of eligible mothers who breastfed exclusively for at least six months increased to 28 per cent from 20 per cent after maternity leave was extended to one year.

With files from CBC's Kelly Crowe