How much salt is too much? What are the do’s and don’ts of salt in a baby’s diet?
Is salt dangerous for babies?
These are the dying-to-know questions all first-time mommies want to know, right?
We all know that high amounts of salt is unhealthy. But do you know just how little of an amount is considered high for a baby?
It’s not very much. Adding just a little salt to your baby’s diet could have adverse health effects.
These negative health effects could be harmful now and in their future.
Salt is everywhere! How do we make sure that our babies are not getting too much salt in their diets?
It’s amazing how many foods contain incredible amounts of sodium. You would never expect it in some items (like teething biscuits and crisps).
As caregivers, it’s important to take special care when feeding our children.
It’s important to understand why we must avoid adding salt to a baby’s diet. It’s also important to know how much salt is a safe amount.
A little salt can be OK in a baby’s diet
As with an adult diet, a small amount of salt in your diet is going to be safe.
Sodium is an essential nutrient that our bodies need. Salt is made up of two minerals, sodium and chloride.
Sodium helps the baby’s body absorb water.
It’s important to know that babies are often getting that amount naturally. There is no need to add salt to their diet.
How much is too much? Here is the maximum recommended amounts of salt (by age, according to the NHS UK):
- Up to 12 months – 1g of salt per day
- 1 to 3 years - 2g of salt per day
- 4 to 6 years – 3g of salt per day
For newborns and infants, that amounts to about a pinch of salt per day. That’s not a lot!
It is extra important that you monitor the salt intake. Especially once you start feeding the baby whole foods.
Why is too much salt in a baby’s diet dangerous?
There are a lot of reasons why it’s not safe to add salt to a baby’s diet. Studies have shown that most babies are consuming too much salt.
It’s important to understand why this information is crucial. Here are the 3 reasons listed as to why too much salt is dangerous for babies.
- Too much salt is bad for developing kidneys.
Young babies’ kidneys are not developed enough to handle large amounts of salt.
- They may end up only craving salty foods.
Salty foods can be addicting for us as adults, right? The same goes for young, development taste buds.
A young baby is perfectly capable of developing a desire for salty foods. This desire will grow with them as they do.
If a young baby develops a liking for salty foods, it could affect their eating habits later on in life.
- A diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure.
Little ones are not immune to conditions like high blood pressure. There is a good chance that if a child develops high blood pressure early in life it will stick with them through adulthood.
Salt may already be in your baby’s diet
Salt is naturally found in a lot of foods that babies will eat regularly. There is no need to add additional salt to their diet.
Here are some examples where salt is found organically in very small amounts.
These foods are considered safe for babies to consume due to their low salt content.
- Breastmilk naturally has a safe and essential amount of sodium for babies that are breastfed.
- Infant formula milk has a small amount of added salt that is considered extremely safe.
- Beans that are dried and cooked yourself have a low amount of salt. Canned beans will have added sodium, so be cautious of that.
- Commercial baby foods are going to have little or no salt. They are baby food experts and produce products with just the right sodium content for little ones.
- Fruits – dried or pureed fruits with no added sugar are great options without added salt.
Some foods might seem safe, but actually aren’t. Here are some examples of food that you might think are healthy for a baby but have high amounts of salt.
It’s best to try and avoid these foods. At the very least, try not to serve them daily.
- Processed meats (even those that are “low sodium” should be avoided with babies)
- Canned or pre-packaged soups
- Pasta sauces
- Cured meats
- Baked beans (stick to soaking and cooking your own)
What are safe, low-sodium options for babies?
Homemade baby food is always the best option to take control of your baby’s salt intake. It’s never necessary to add salt when you’re preparing your baby food.
The real question is.
What are some basic ways that you can be sure there is little to no salt in your baby’s diet?
Don't you worry.
We've figured some steps you need to consider for your lovely baby:
- Make your own purees. Mix up different vegetables if you want to diversify your baby’s meal.
- No processed foods. Avoid all packaged crackers, chips, dried fruits, vegetables and especially recalled baby food.
- Only serve your baby food that is made for babies. No adult cereals or oatmeal.
- Babies are just as infatuated with texture as they are flavor. Try mixing different textured foods at each meal.
- For example: a plate with avocados, apples, and green beans
- Always check the nutritional facts and labels for sodium content.
Don’t freak out. Salt is not poison to your baby!
Parents and caregivers have enough to worry about when it comes to caring for their new baby. If you happen to give your baby a potato chip, it won’t be the end of the world!
Your baby will survive.
However, It’s important though to realize that some ingredients (like salt/sodium) found in most foods are not safe for regular consumption.
It’s important to focus on foods that your baby can eat.
It’s important to focus on foods that develop healthy eating habits.
And it’s not helpful if you concentrate and stress on what you’re doing wrong. Take strides to educate yourself on how to prepare a healthy diet for your baby.
It’s a fun adventure to find foods that your baby loves in their natural state. This is the best way to develop a sustainable, strong diet for your child.