Updated: Sep 29
Written by Anna Ritan, APD, BND
As your little one becomes more competent with solids, you may be wondering if it's time to introduce a variety of family foods into their diet. One common question parents have is whether babies aged 6-12 months can eat bread.
There are so many bread options on the supermarket shelves these days, so what are the best choices for a baby, can they eat bread when starting solids, and what to consider before introducing bread to your baby's diet during this crucial stage of their development?
When can you introduce bread?
Bread can be introduced from 6 months of age. Bread is a source of carbohydrates, fibre and protein and can be a great finger food and vehicle for other foods like purees, hummus and avocado. There are, however, some important points to consider before choosing and introducing bread to your baby:
Bread can be a choking risk.
Bread can contain multiple food allergens.
Bread can be very high in salt.
Bread can contain food additives and preservatives.
Is bread healthy for babies?
Bread can be a good source of carbohydrates and fibre, but nutritionally there can be differences between different types of bread. Wholegrain bread can be a valuable addition to your baby's diet. It provides carbohydrates for energy and essential nutrients like iron, which is crucial for growth and development. .
Generally, bread is best 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.
Common Food Allergens in Bread
Bread is typically made predominantly from wheat, which is one of the top 9 allergenic foods.
If you have not introduced wheat before, and bread is your child's first exposure to wheat, be sure to serve a small amount on its own initially and increase gradually if tolerated. If there are no allergic reactions you can continue to include wheat in your baby's diet.
* bread can also contain some of the other top 9 allergens like soy (very common as soy flour is often used in bread in Australia), 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 common food allergens.
Choking Risk: Toast bread to reduce the risk
Fresh, soft bread can be a choking risk. Once moistened with saliva it can form a sticky clump or ball in a baby's mouth which can increase the risk of choking. To reduce the chances of this happening you can try the following:
- Choose a wholemeal bread made from wholegrains or sprouted grains, white bread tends to be tackier.
- Toast the bread first and spread it with toppings such as avocado, lots of butter, hummus, pureed vegetables, or ricotta cheese. Spreading 1-2 toppings on toast can help make sure it’s not too dry for your baby.
- Cut the toast into 2 x finger-length and width pieces for babies and remove the crusts to make it easier for your baby to hold. When your baby has developed their pincer grasp (typically this happens around 9 months old), you can cut toast into small bite-sized pieces that your child can pick up with their forefinger and thumb.
- Avoid serving toast with a thick spread of peanut or nut butter (a thin spread is fine)
- Always stay with your baby whilst they are eating
- Avoid breads with visible nuts and seeded breads.
Choosing the most nutritious bread for your baby
Bread can be very high in sodium, in fact, 2 slices of bread can meet 1/3 of an adult's sodium requirements for the day! Babies 6-12 months require very little dietary sodium, easily met through breastfeeding (or infant formula) and the naturally occurring sodium in foods like vegetables and meat.
Ideally, for a baby, it is best to choose bread with a low amount of sodium, preferably less than 100mg per serving or less than 300mg per 100g when looking at the nutrition information panel.
Sodium content can vary greatly between brands and types of bread.
Nuts and Seeds
Any bread with visible hard seeds, nuts or grains on the outside or through the bread can be a choking risk (such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds). Babies can breathe 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, and Enzymes.
For example: Vegetable Emulsifiers (471,481,472e), Calcium carbonate, Calcium Propionate (282) and Vegetable Gum (412).
The safety of preservatives and additives has not been studied in infants, so with an everyday food such as bread, if you have access to an alternative that is free of additives and preservatives then opt for this where ever possible. Usually, bread that is freshly baked has no preservatives or additives but always check the label.
Generally, opt for 100% whole grain or whole wheat bread over refined white bread. Wholewheat breads contain nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals like Iron, antioxidants and phytochemicals which can help to provide added nutrition to your baby. Choose bread that has "Wholewheat/wholegrain" listed in the ingredients list, this means the bread has been made from all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in its original proportions. Wholegrain" doesn't just refer to the visible grains you can see in bread. Grains can be processed and separated into their three parts (bran, germ and endosperm) and will still retain their nutrients, as long as these are added back into the bread in the same proportions. Breads made from wholemeal wheat flour are therefore a source of wholegrain, even if they don't contain visible grains.
For a baby 6-12 months I like to recommend a wholemeal bread made from wholewheat or wholegrains.
Bread made from sprouted grains or legumes will also be a good source of fibre, protein and plant diversity. They are made using flours from sprouted grains, which are formed when grains are exposed to moist, warm conditions. "The carbohydrates stored in the endosperm become more easily digestible, and sprouting is also thought to increase the bio-availability [the degree at which something is absorbed into your body] of some vitamins and minerals.
Sourdough can also be a nutritious addition for babies. Sourdough made by traditional lactic acid fermentation may be easier to digest. Sourdough can be slightly higher in sodium so use this in rotation with other lower sodium breads.
Best bread examples for starting solids:
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, Himalayan Pink Rock Salt, Psyllium Husk and Lecithin
Sodium content: 232mg/100g
Purelife Ezekiel Sprouted bread $12
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 sandwich loaf (baked in-store) $2.70
Ingredients: Wholemeal Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Wheat Gluten, Iodised Salt, Canola Oil, Malted Barley, Vitamins [Thiamin, Folic Acid].
Sodium content: 245mg per serve
Woolworths Bread Wholemeal Loaf (baked in-store) $2.70
Ingredients: Wholemeal Wheat Flour (63%), Water, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Vegetable Oils (Palm, Canola), Iodised Salt, Malted Barley Flour, Soy Flour, Vitamins (Thiamin, Folate)
For more expert advice on starting solids check out these useful resources and what others have had to say:
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