One of the best starting solid foods tricks for feeding your baby is to pretty much put everything on bread. And yes, this goes right from 6 months of age!
Hummus, peanut butter, other nut butters, yogurt, cream cheese and cottage cheese, it all works. Spreading something on bread is a great way for your baby to try a new food. Even things that you would never eat yourself? Yep, those work, too!
Bread can be cut into finger strips, which make it a great finger food for your baby, with a few caveats.
Having a decent amount of bread in your baby’s diet definitely means that you’ll want to pay attention to what bread you are buying and it’s ingredient list.
Just what should you be looking for to find the best bread for babies?
The Best Bread Texture for Babies
So often, white bread is what comes to mind first when you think of bread. And while white bread isn’t inherently bad, for babies it leaves a lot to be desired.
Most white breads, even when toasted a bit, turn into gummy globs when your baby gets a hold of them. Soft breads that do that are a top choking hazard for babies!
Some whole wheat bread has the same texture as white breads, and would also be considered a choking risk. Which means that texture is really the first thing to consider when it comes to the best breads for babies.
Look for a bread that doesn’t gum up when you squeeze it. That usually means a bread with bigger air bubbles in it. Bigger air bubbles are often a feature of more artisanal breads, and sometimes of sourdough breads.
You want ones with bread crusts that won't break off into large chunks, but there is no need to remove crusts for your baby. Even after toasting the bread!
Large seeds, like sunflower or pumpkin seeds are also considered choking hazards. Many whole wheat breads will have these on the outside crust. Do your best to avoid bread with these on them.
For a full run down of how to serve breads, and so many other choking hazards safely, make sure you grab the Starting Solids course, where I walk you through it all!
The Nutrients to Look For in Bread
Now that we’ve gotten the basic texture to look for out of the way, let’s talk about the other aspects of bread we want to be aware of.
Bread is one of the biggest culprits for added salt in our diets.
When it comes to babies, we really want to be avoiding sodium as much as possible. With that in mind, do your best to find a bread with the lowest amount of salt that you can.
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 of bread.
That's about half of the average amount of sodium we want our babies to be getting in a day.
While 200mg per slice might not add up to a lot for an adult, for kids and babies it can definitely add up to too much sodium quickly.
Find a Low Salt Bread If You Can
I recommend shooting for below 200mg of sodium per slice of bread, and aiming for a low salt, or no salt, bread when possible.
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 whole wheat breads when you are at the grocery store for your best chance of finding a low salt bread version.
Another type of ingredient to be aware of in breads is added sugars and sweeteners. Before 1, we do want to avoid added sugars as much as we can. And really, this goes all the way up to 2 years of age.
Just what do I mean by added sugars or sweeteners? This goes for anything from regular cane sugar to honey, maple syrup, stevia, or really anything else used to sweeten something.
For babies under 1, honey is an especially concerning ingredient as there is a risk of botulism with it. Even when they are baked, we want to avoid things with honey in them for babies under 1.
Why Are Added Sugars Common In Breads?
A lot of whole wheat breads have added sweeteners, as companies generally believe that people won’t eat whole wheat bread without at minimum small amounts of sweetness in it. The same goes for white bread!
And while some type of sugar is often used to help feed the yeast in bread recipes, there are definitely breads out there without added sugar in them. Not to mention that a lot of breads have more sugar than would strictly be necessary from a scientific standpoint!
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 find breads with them at the very bottom of the list.
The last nutrient to be aware of when looking for breads for your baby is fiber.
While generally we think of fiber as a good thing, sometimes babies can have an issue digesting a ton of it.
Fiber is also something that can make your baby feel full without giving them a lot of calories. For young babies, we want them to get as many calories from foods as possible.
This doesn’t mean you have to count how much fiber that you give your baby, avoid whole grains, or even really that you need to be overly concerned with it.
Just know that a baby doesn’t always need whole-wheat bread. Think of it as aiming for a middle of the road amount of fiber. Rotating your baby’s bread between a low fiber white flour option and a high fiber whole wheat flour option is a great way to go.
Try something like sourdough or another artisanal style bread to help rotate what you offer while also getting in that safe texture!
The Perfect Bread for Babies
So after all of those things to consider, are you ready for me to tell you the bread you should go out and buy? The type of bread that will meet all these requirements and is the best bread for babies?
Well, it doesn’t exist!
There is no perfect bread. There are breads with low fiber and low salt, but some sugar. Or no sugar or salt, but high fiber. There’s higher sodium but low fiber and sugar. Really, there are combinations all over the place. Even if you make it at home.
Then add in the fact that some of the breads that might get closer to the recommendations are actually quite pricey, and it can get complicated fast!
The Best Types of Breads for Your Baby
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 in a bread they aren’t getting all the time.
So at the grocery store, look at the nutrition labels. Buy a couple of different breads and stick them in your freezer so you don’t have to eat them all at once.
Get one white and one whole wheat if that’s what you enjoy. Or some made in store, and some sourdough.
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 the shortcomings of each bread 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 more salt or too much sugar in bread than normal 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.
The Best Breads for Babies That I Have Found
For those of you who are curious, I have scoured several different stores over the years to see what is available for bread here in my city and to find the best bread for babies that I could.
At the end of the day, I tend to rotate through this Ezekiel bread, which is a great option with no added sugar and no salt for babies. And a cracked wheat sourdough bread found locally here and at Trader Joes. It is a more artisanal style which also has a great texture for babies, even though it is a bit higher in sodium than I might prefer.
I have also had good success shopping in the bakery section of my store for some more sourdough boule style breads.
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