There are so many bread options on the supermarket shelves these days, so what are the best choices for a baby, and can they eat bread when starting solids?
When can you introduce bread?
Bread can be introduced from 6 months of age, and is a source of carbohydrates, fibre and protein, although bread is not a complete meal on its own and should be served with some toppings to increase nutrition or with other foods as part of a balanced meal. Bread can be filling for babies so be sure it does not take away from other nutrients in the meal.
Bread is usually made from wheat, which is one of the top 9 allergenic foods. It is recommended to introduce allergens before 12 months of age. If you have not introduced wheat before, and bread is your first exposure, be sure to serve a small amount on its own initially. If there are no allergic reactions you can continue to include wheat in your babies diet and mix with other foods.
* bread can also contain some of the other top 9 allergens like soy (very common as soy flour is often used in bread), egg and sesame for example. If you are introducing an allergen for the first time always introduce it on its own and not with other allergens.
Bread can be a choking risk, once moistened with saliva it can form a clump or ball in a babies mouth which can be sticky and be a choking risk. The reduce the chances of this happening you can try the following:
- choose wholemeal bread made from wholegrains or sprouted grains, white bread tends to be tackier.
- Toast the bread first (not super dry and , more like lightly to medium) and spread with toppings such as avocado, lots of butter, hummus, pureed vegetables, ricotta cheese.
- Cut babies bread into thin finger length pieces for babies and remove the crusts
- Avoid serving it with a thick spread of peanut butter (a thin spread is fine)
- Always stay with your baby whilst they are eating
What to look out for?
My top tips for choosing a bread for your child....
Bread can be very high in salt, infact 2 slices of bread can meet 1/3 of an adults sodium requirements for the day! Babies 6-12 months require much less dietary sodium especially once you have factored in the sodium from breastmilk or formula.
Ideally, for a baby it is best to choose a bread with a low amount of sodium, preferrably less than 100mg per serve. Typically a serve is 2 x slices of bread and a baby will not usually eat that much anyway. Sodium is listed on the nutrition information panel and in the ingredients.
Sodium content can vary greatly between brands and types of bread.
Nuts and Seeds
Breads with large hard seeds on the outside or through the bread can be a choking risk (such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds). Babies can breath these seeds into their lungs (aspiration). It is best to avoid these seeded breads until your child is older.
Preservatives and Additives
Some breads (especially store bought) can contain preservatives and additives to maintain shelf life; They appear in the ingredients list and are designated by their class names: - flour treatment agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, enzymes. For example: Vegetable Emulsifiers (471,481,472e), Calcium carbonate, Vegetable Gum (412).
The safety of preservatives and additives are not studied in infants, so with an everyday food such as bread, if you have access to an alternative that is additive and preservative free then opt for this where possible. Usually bread that is freshly baked has no preservatives or additives but always check the label.
Wholegrains contain nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals – these can help protect you against disease. Bread can be a good source of wholegrains, but wholegrain content doesn't have to be declared on the label and content can vary. "Wholegrain" doesn't just refer to the visible grains you can see in bread, breads made from wholemeal wheat flour are a source of wholegrain, even if they don't contain visible grains.
Breads made from sprouted grains or legumes will have more fibre, protein and plant diversity, and breads made from traditional sourdough/lactic acid fermentation may be easier to digest.
Best bread examples for babies:
Naturis Organic Salt Free Wholemeal $7.40
Ingredients: Organic stoneground wheatmeal, Organic rye leaven, organic olive oil and purified water.
Sodium content: 8mg/100g
Bill's organic stone ground wholemeal sourdough $8.00
Ingredients: certified organic stoneground wholemeal wheat flour, filtered water, certified organic sunflower oil, psyllium husk, lecithin (from rapeseed) and Himalayan pink rock salt
Sodium content: 93mg/serve
Purelife Ezekiel Sprouted bread
Ingredients: Wheat*, spelt*, barley*, lentils, millet and mung beans^ all sprouted with filtered water. Cooking aid: extra virgin olive oil
Sodium content: 1mg/serve
Coles bakery wholemeal bread loaf $2.00
Ingredients: Wholemeal Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Wheat Gluten, Iodised Salt, Canola Oil, Malted Barley, Vitamins [Thiamin, Folic Acid].
Sodium content: 245mg per serve