One of the best tricks for feeding your newly-eating baby is to pretty much put everything on bread. Hummus, nut butters, yogurt and cottage cheese, it all works. Even things that you would never eat yourself? Yep, those work, too! With that being said, giving so much bread to your baby definitely means that you’ll want to pay attention to what bread you are buying. But just what should you be looking for to find the best bread for babies?
You’ve heard me talk about it before, but a baby’s kidneys just can’t handle much salt at all before a year. So make sure that you are finding bread with a low sodium content. Unfortunately, this can be harder than you would think!
Salt is a very common ingredient in bread, both for baking and taste reasons. If you go out and look at some of the “healthier” breads, they actually have over 200mg of sodium per slice. If you remember, that’s the max your baby should be getting in one day! While 200mg per slice might not add up to a lot for an adult, for kids and babies it can definitely add up quickly.
I recommend shooting for below 200mg of sodium per slice, and getting the lowest amount you can. There are some breads out there that are low or no sodium, and those often can be found in the freezer section. Look for sprouted and no salt when you are at the grocery store for your best chance of finding it.
Both of these breads are perfectly okay for your baby to have!
The other ingredient that I’ve talked about frequently is sweeteners. Before 1, there’s just no need for your baby to have sugars, as it can set them up for only wanting sweet things. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is actually no sweeteners before 2. I don’t necessarily think you need to be eliminating sweeteners for that long. For me, though, it has to do with setting sugar up as a bad food and restricting it, which inevitably causes your toddler to want it more, but that’s a topic for another day!
A lot of whole wheat breads have added sweeteners, as companies generally believe that people won’t eat whole wheat bread without a bit of sweetness in it. My recommendation for sweeteners is 0 grams of added sugars. Some breads don’t have labels on them stating the amount of added sugar, and in that case look for no sweeteners in the ingredient lists, or at least at the very bottom of the list.
These are okay options, too!
The last nutrient to be aware of is fiber. Babies can potentially have an issue digesting a ton of fiber. It doesn’t mean you have to count how much fiber that you give, or even really that you need to be overly concerned with it. Just know that a baby doesn’t always need a whole wheat variety of something. Think of it as aiming for a middle of the road amount of fiber. Rotating your bread with a lower fiber bread is actually a great option for babies. Try something like sourdough or another artisanal style bread to help rotate what you offer.
So after all that, are you ready for me to tell you the bread you should go out and buy? The one that will meet all these requirements and is the best bread for babies? Well, it doesn’t exist! There is no perfect bread. There’s breads with low fiber and low salt, but some sugar. There no sugar or salt but high fiber, there’s higher sodium but low fiber and sugar. Really, there’s combinations all over the place. Even if you make it at home. And then add in the fact that some of the breads that might get closer to the recommendations are actually quite pricey, and what’s a parent to do?
Here’s the thing. Most babies don’t actually eat a ton of the bread at mealtimes. At least enough to be worried about something like too much salt causing a medical issue. So at the grocery store, look at the nutrition labels. Buy a couple different breads and stick them in your freezer. Buy one white and one whole wheat if that’s what you enjoy. Buy the ones that have the lowest amount of salt and sugar in the category of bread you are looking at. Plan to rotate breads throughout meals, so that they will even each other out. Bottom line is to pay attention to these recommendations, but don't worry too much if you aren't able to meet them in all breads. Just do your best.
Along those same lines, if you happen to be away from the store you normally buy from, do the best you can, and then don’t worry. Having a bit of salt or sugar in bread will not harm your baby. Do you want a bread high in sugar and sodium to be the mainstay in your baby’s diet? Probably not. But you work with what you have.
For those of you who are curious, I did go out to several different stores to see what is on offer for breads here in my city and to find the best bread for babies that I could. I’ve got a rundown in the video below of some of the best options I found to help you see what I’m looking for when I shop for my own family.
When shopping for bread for your baby, do your best to get a low sodium and no added sugar variety. Aim for bread that isn’t overly high in fiber, or plan to alternate a high fiber variety with a low fiber variety. It is unlikely you will find the “perfect” bread, as it doesn’t exist. Buy a bread that meets these recommendations as much as possible, and that you will enjoy, too.