“Our daily bread.” “Let’s break bread.” “The best thing since sliced bread.” Ever notice how many idioms revolve around bread?
In Western culture, this simple loaf of wheat or other grains has been a dietary staple for centuries. In fact, historians believe bread has been around since the ancient Egyptian era.
If you have an infant, you may be wondering when your child should continue the centuries-long trend of bread consumption.
Or perhaps you’ve wondered whether they should eat bread at all. With the rise of low carb and gluten- or grain-free diets, bread has certainly taken a hit in popularity in recent years.
For the record, bread is generally safe and healthy for babies to eat. Here’s what you need to know about when and how to feed it to your little one.
As a parent to your precious kiddo, you likely have safety top of mind at pretty much all times. (So many choking hazards! So many things to childproof!)
Food is one of the many areas where safety matters.
When feeding your baby bread, you’ll want to be aware of a few factors. First — and this is kind of counterintuitive — it’s actually the softer, chewier breads that can sometimes pose more problems for little eaters.
Breads with a softer consistency, like white sandwich bread, have a tendency to gum up into an un-swallowable ball in a baby’s mouth. This can lead to gagging or choking — or a spit-out pile of soggy bread gloop on the high chair tray.
To help a soft bread go down easier, try toasting it. This will remove some of its moisture so it’s less likely to stick together in baby’s mouth.
On the other side of the bread spectrum, a hard, crusty bread can be difficult for babies who have very few teeth to gnaw through it with.
Though you might try offering a bread crust to your child so they can experience its texture, they may not get very far on actually consuming it, depending on their chewing skills.
For this reason, crusty breads are best for older babies with more chewing experience. For babies just starting out with solids, stick to breads with middle-of-the-road density to minimize the risk of choking.
There’s no perfect schedule for when to introduce bread or toast to your baby.
The Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) gives the go-ahead for starting a variety of solid foods from around 6 months old — and bread can be included from this age.
When you do decide to debut a bit of sourdough or ciabatta, just be sure it’s not accompanied by other foods new to your child.
If your child happens to have a negative reaction to something they ate, this allows you to identify the culprit more easily.
Baby-led weaning involves offering small pieces of food to your child, allowing them to feed themselves rather than be spoon-fed. As your kiddo approaches older babyhood, this approach can help them transition to table foods with more confidence and independence.
Baby-led weaning is associated with a number of benefits, like promoting more nutritious eating later in life and helping kids maintain a healthy weight.
Bread makes a super easy go-to when starting out with baby-led weaning.
Simply cut or tear a slice of bread into bite-size pieces, place them on the high chair, and let your child pincer-grasp them to their mouth. (Again, to make bread less gummy, toast it first.)
As always, with bread or any other foods your child self-feeds, stay close by as they eat so you can monitor for signs of choking.
100 percent whole wheat bread
Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes breads that use the words “whole wheat” in their name are not, in fact, made with just whole wheat flour.
To be sure you’re getting the whole high-fiber package for your baby, choose breads that explicitly state they’re made with 100 percent whole wheat or other whole grains.
Our pick: Whole Foods Organic Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Sprouted grain bread
For extra fiber and nutrients in your child’s diet, check out sprouted grain bread.
These loaves may contain a wide variety of grains harvested at the point of sprouting. Grains might include millet, spelt, kamut, or barley.
Many brands also include high-fiber, high-protein legumes like lentils and soy beans.
Our picks: Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread and Simple Truth Organic Sprouted Grain and Legume Bread
Sourdough or other hearty white
Soft white breads may turn gummy in baby’s mouth, but the texture of sturdier options like sourdough or rustic white bread will hold up far better.
Our pick: Dave’s Killer Bread White Bread Done Right
Breads with nuts and seeds
Tasty and nutritious though nuts and seeds may be in bread, they’ll have to wait until baby is a bit older.
Loaves that contain large chunks of nuts or have sunflower seeds studded around their exterior, for example, pose a choking hazard for very young children.
Breads with honey or lots of added sugar
The advice that goes for grown-ups goes for babies, too: Keep added sugar to a minimum. (Yep, it’s basically always a good idea for health.)
Look for breads with no added sugars in their ingredient list. This may require a bit of label-reading savvy — many sweeteners go by names you might not recognize.
That said, if learning all the names of sugar is too overwhelming, seek out breads with 2 grams or fewer of sugar per slice.
Another important point: Even in baked goods, honey is a no-no for babies under 1 year old. If honey shows up on a bread’s ingredient list, leave it on the shelf.
Breads with high sodium
Babies’ developing bodies don’t need that much sodium — and too much of this mineral can actually harm their kidneys. But bread is among the sneakiest sources of sodium in our diets, according to the American Heart Association.
Keep up your label reading by looking for breads with lower sodium, such as 100 milligrams or fewer per serving.
We’re willing to bet you’re familiar with the fact that bread contains wheat (at least, usually).
Wheat is among the top eight food allergens responsible for 90 percent of all dietary allergies. If wheat or other food allergies run in your family, you may feel hesitant about introducing your child to bread.
However, according to the AAP, there’s no medical reason to delay the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, even with a family history of allergies.
When budget and time allow, it’s also smart to offer your child breads made from a wide variety of grains. This can set them up for enjoying a broad range of flavors and textures.
And, on a positive note, don’t forget that 100 percent whole wheat bread (and many other varieties) are rich in fiber, which can improve infants’ digestion. When baby is struggling with constipation, incorporate fiber-rich bread alongside other high-fiber choices.
Since bread is a mild, palatable food, it doesn’t take a lot of creativity to prepare bread in a way your baby is likely to enjoy. A cut-up slice of toast with a thin schmear of butter is a simple, yummy snack that doesn’t need any extra flair.
Bread can also serve as the base for innumerable interesting, baby-pleasing recipes.
For a breakfast rich in protein and complex carbohydrates, spread a bit of peanut butter on toast (if you’ve already successfully introduced peanuts), then top with mashed or sliced banana.
Or start your mini hipster early on the avo toast trend by serving a tablespoon of mashed avocado on whole wheat.
At lunch or dinnertime, try topping toast with savory mashed sweet potatoes dusted with cinnamon or a layer of smashed chickpeas with fresh dill.
To make sandwiches and toast even more appealing to toddlers, use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes.
From an early age, it’s totally fine to feed babies bread made from a variety of grains.
With endless prep options at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, “daily bread” can quickly become a reality for your child.