Let's cut to the chase: Babies CAN eat sourdough bread, and according to research, it's even better for them than regular bread. But since even "sourdough bread" can mean many things, we'll go over all the most critical questions that come to mind when we're ready to include sourdough bread into the baby's diet.
Bread is a staple food in Western diets, even more so in the central European region where I live. We eat it at least once a day and like to eat good, quality bread. So when there's a question of what our babies can and can't eat, bread is a popular topic. Especially sourdough bread, since it gained widespread popularity only recently.
Introducing new foods to your baby can be daunting. And believe me, I completely understand you! I am currently slowly transitioning from breastfeeding to solids with my second baby (a 7-month-old), and sourdough bread is one thing that is on our family's menu daily. While we can all agree that sourdough bread is not exactly the first food to give to babies, it can be a part of their healthy diet from 6 months onwards.
In this post, we'll go over the following questions:
- Can Babies Eat Sourdough Bread?
- Is Sourdough Bread Better For Babies?
- When Can I Give Sourdough Bread to my Baby?
- What Kind of Sourdough Bread is the Best for Babies?
- What is the Best Bread Texture for Babies?
- How to Make the Bread Softer for a Baby to Eat?
- Is Whole Wheat Bread Better for Babies?
- What to Serve Baby on Sourdough Bread?
- How to Serve Sourdough Bread to Babies?
- What Ingredients to Watch out for When Buying Bread for a Baby in the Store?
- When Can Babies Eat Bread and Butter?
- When Can Cabies Eat Breadsticks?
- When Can Babies Eat Toast?
- When Can Babies Eat Bread That is not Toasted?
- End Notes
Can Babies Eat Sourdough Bread?
Babies can eat sourdough bread around 6 months of age, but it's important to introduce it gradually and carefully. Since sourdough bread contains gluten, one of the common allergens, you should follow all the guidelines for introducing allergens when you serve sourdough bread to your baby. Also, be mindful of the way of serving it, since bread can present a choking hazard when served inappropriately. Other than that, sourdough bread can be a great source of mainly carbohydrates, but some protein and fiber as well.
When you serve sourdough bread for the first time, it's a good idea to serve only small amounts. That is because gluten in the bread is a potential allergen. Although any adverse reactions are fairly rare, it's good to supervise the baby closely. Pay attention to how your baby handles the bread, chews, and swallows. If you notice any signs of choking or discomfort, intervene immediately. There is also always a possibility your child may have a condition called celiac disease. Watch him for any unusual signs after introducing him to bread for the first time.
One thing I always think about when in doubt about anything related to sourdough bread is that it has been around for centuries. Our "regular", store-bought bread made with commercial yeast is a novelty! Babies only eat our "regular", store-bought bread for a good 100 years. All those years before, they ate the sourdough version!
Is Sourdough Bread Better For Babies?
Sourdough bread is often considered a healthier alternative due to its properties that come with fermentation. First, sourdough bread's digestibility is improved. Sourdough involves naturally occurring bacteria and yeast that break down some of the gluten and phytic acid present in the bread. This can make the bread easier to digest and reduce the risk of digestive discomfort.
Secondly, fermentation breaks down phytic acid. Phytic acid in grains can bind to minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, reducing their absorption in the body. With fermentation, we're increasing the bioavailability of these essential minerals and potentially improving overall nutrient absorption.
Sourdough bread typically has a lower glycemic index compared to commercially produced white bread. This means it causes slower and steadier increases in blood sugar levels. This provides sustained energy and reduces the risk of rapid spikes and crashes in energy levels.
The fermentation process in sourdough can increase the levels of certain B vitamins (such as B vitamins and folate) and other beneficial compounds. All of that contributes to the overall nutritional value of the bread. Those are just the major benefits.
Additionally, sourdough bread, especially one made at home, is free of additives, making it a more natural and wholesome option. Consuming sourdough bread may contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.
Lastly and in my opinion the most important one regarding babies is its reduced allergenicity. Because gluten proteins are in part broken down during the fermentation process, sourdough bread has less allergenic potential. That is why some individuals who are sensitive to gluten may tolerate long-fermented sourdough bread, but not regular bread. Since gluten is an allergen, it's a good idea to first give a baby a kind of bread that has (ever so slightly) less gluten.
In recent years, there was a good amount of studies done about the benefits of eating sourdough bread. If you're not in the mood to dig deep but want some basic scientific information, I like this one!
When Can I Give Sourdough Bread to my Baby?
Current recommendations of The Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) state that babies can start eating bread around 6 months old. But this must be interpreted within broader guidelines on starting solids. Defiantly don't start with bread when you start with solid food! It is of course advisable to start with vegetables and fruits first. When you are prepared to introduce your baby to gluten, bread can 100% be the thing that you offer. Just make sure you choose bread that is age appropriate and also cut it to the right shape for your baby. We'll discuss both topics in depth below.
What Kind of Sourdough Bread is the Best for Babies?
Homemade sourdough bread is a great start because you don't have to worry about the long ingredient list of most store-bought bread. Still, it's a good idea to be mindful of the flour you are using and other ingredients you might be using in your bread.
Contrary to popular belief, 100% whole grain bread is actually not the best choice for your baby. Although it is advisable to include some whole grains, keep in mind that whole grain options can contain a lot of fiber. Fiber is of course a good thing, but if there is a lot of it, babies can have trouble digesting it. Their digestive systems are just starting to get used to solids, and too much fiber can negatively affect their digestion. In addition, fiber contributes greatly to the feeling of fullness. When we offer babies bread, we want them to consume a healthy serving of complex carbohydrates, packed with some essential nutrients. If the amount of fiber in the bread is big, we are reducing its nutritional value of it because the baby simply won't be able to eat a lot of it.
As with anything, balance is the key. The best thing about making your own bread is the flexibility you have when it comes to the ingredients used. Mix some all purpose flour and add a nice amount of whole grains for added nutrition. By making your bread partially whole wheat, you get the benefits of nutrients only found in whole grains and avoid overloading on the fiber. If you have an active starter on hand, this no-knead sourdough bread can be made with a mix of white and whole-wheat flour.
What is the Best Bread Texture for Babies?
Things to keep in mind when deciding what kind of bread texture to offer to your baby are softness and tenderness, the amount of crust, possible dryness, and additions like large seeds.
An important thing to note here is that guidelines regarding the appropriate texture differ greatly. Some say soft and moist bread is best, others claim that fresh, soft, and moist bread is actually the biggest choking hazard. I personally found that the latter is more on point. Soft breads easily form large clumps in a baby's mouth, making them a greater choking hazard. According to my conclusion from the research available, it is not a good idea to serve the softest bread for babies from 6 to 9 months of age. Later, soft bread will be the best choice, but for up to 9 months, dry crusty ends are recommended.
The crust can be appropriate for 6 to 9-month-olds when they are just getting used to tasting bread. Make sure the crust is hard and dry, so the baby chews it little by little. Later, from 9 months of age when babies can actually eat bread and not just taste it, they might have a harder time chewing through crusty bread. It's best to choose bread with minimal crust or soft crust, so they can eat it more easily. The same logic applies to freshness. Fresh bread can be soft and moist, meaning it can clump together and form balls that are a choking hazard for younger babies.
Up to the first year, steer clear of any seeds or other additions that are harder to chew as the bread itself. Those include seeds that are big enough to potentially cause problems (so not chia seeds, poppy seeds, and other very small seeds that don't affect the texture as much).
How to Make the Bread Softer for a Baby to Eat?
For young babies, you shouldn't make the bread softer, because soft bread is a choking hazard! Even toasted and then softened with milk or formula (a suggestion that comes up many times on forums), it can turn into a big lump in their mouths that won't go down. Later, after 9 months of age, you can soften the bread by toasting it lightly or microwaving it for a few seconds.
Is Whole Wheat Bread Better for Babies?
Generally, whole wheat bread offers more nutrition, but its fiber content can be a bit too high for babies. Therefore, try to make or buy types of bread that include whole wheat flour for added nutrition and some fiber. But try not to only serve bread that is made exclusively from whole grain types of flour.
What to Serve Baby on Sourdough Bread?
To minimize the choking risk, it's advisable to serve bread with a spread that'll make the bread dissolve in the baby's mouth. That prevents the bread from forming a lump that could be problematic. Spreads like avocado mash, cottage cheese, quark, hummus, or thick yogurt (also Greek yogurt) are a good option. That way, you also add some healthy fats and/or protein to the baby's meal. Avoid things like peanut butter and other nut butter. They are perfect to clump everything together and pose a choking risk!
How to Serve Sourdough Bread to Babies?
Follow the suggestions for serving regular bread for baby-led weaning when serving sourdough bread to your baby.
For 6 to 9 months old, that means serving large crusty ends. For 9 to 12 months old, babies have a pincer grasp already developed, so they can pick up smaller pieces of food. You can prepare them bite-sized pieces of bread in the form of thin strips of toast. Later, after 1 year of age, offer your baby a large piece of bread or toast, cut in half.
A great resource to check out for more detailed and visual serving suggestions is the invaluable database of "Solid Starts" that can be found here.
What Ingredients to Watch out for When Buying Bread for a Baby in the Store?
Store-bought bread can be filled with things that are great for the shelf life, but we don't want our baby to have them very early on. The good news is that reading labels enables us to make informed choices, even if we are in a season of life that doesn't allow us time for baking bread at home.
The most important thing look out for a potential allergen you are not yet prepared to introduce to your baby. Many breads today contain milk (usually in powdered form), eggs, or soy. While there's nothing wrong with those additions, it's important that you know they're allergenic foods. That means you must monitor your child for potential allergic reactions.
Added sugars are very common, and they can be sneaky! In many cases, the labels won't even say sugar. Look for terms like "sucrose," "glucose," "fructose," "high-fructose corn syrup," "honey," "molasses," and other sugar-related terms. These all indicate the presence of added sugars in different forms, which we don't want. And don't let some products named "baby bread" fool you! Check the ingredients and you'll be surprised that many of them actually contain a fair amount of sugar!
Sodium content is another thing to check on the labels since some breads contain a fair amount of salt. Salt is not recommended at all for babies up until age 1.
When Can Babies Eat Bread and Butter?
Babies can eat bread and butter. There are some things we need to keep in mind to ensure that it's safe and appropriate for their age and developmental stage. If you introduced the baby to gluten and dairy already, then serving them bread and butter is no big deal. If not, it's advisable to introduce them to one allergen at a time. Serve bread and butter separately and monitor for a potential allergic reaction. Make sure to follow the guidelines for offering bread to the baby in an age-appropriate way. Whether that means serving in strips, in small pieces, or a whole slice. And lastly, use only a small amount of butter to add flavor and moisture to the bread. Babies' stomachs are still small, so avoid overloading them with excessive amounts of butter.
When Can Cabies Eat Breadsticks?
Babies can eat breadsticks. It is, however advisable to wait until 12 months of age when they can chew the breadsticks properly. In addition, breadsticks often offer no nutritional value, so make sure they are just an addition to an overall healthy diet.
When Can Babies Eat Toast?
Babies can eat toast, but it must be appropriately served for their age. Since toast can be a big choking hazard, it is important to follow instructions on how to cut the toast and how to monitor your baby for potential gagging or choking.
When Can Babies Eat Bread That is not Toasted?
Opinions and guidelines are different on the topic of giving a baby bread that is not toasted. It is generally even recommended that you do not toast the bread for your baby. Toasting the bread can soften it to the point of forming lumps in their mouths that can lead to choking.
I hope this article clarifies what bread to serve to your baby and lessens your worry about it at least a little! If you have any suggestions from experience, please share them below, the same goes for questions. I always enjoy reading your comments!