The Dangers of Adding Salt to Baby Food
Health professionals advise against adding salt to baby food – but have you ever wondered why? And
could you already be including too much salt in your baby’s diet without realizing?
Why too much salt is dangerous
The human body needs some salt in order to function correctly. Salt cannot be reproduced by the body, so
a little salt is a necessary part of our daily diet.
But a baby’s salt requirements are VERY small (less than 1g per day up to the age of 12 months) – and
these needs are met by his breastmilk or formula.
His kidneys are simply not equipped to process more salt than this – meaning that adding salt to
baby food can lead to serious kidney damage.
There have even been extreme situations in which babies
have died as a result of consuming too much salt.
This tragic story from the BBC
is one such example, where a very young baby (only 3 months of age) died after being fed a diet of pureed adult
food – which, of course, far exceeded the levels of salt appropriate for an infant.
There is also growing evidence that consuming too much salt from an early age can lead to high
blood pressure in later life – particularly in families with a history of hypertension.
So should my baby’s food be bland?
Well, you may find food bland if it’s cooked without salt, because your palate is probably
accustomed to saltier flavours.
But remember that your baby’s palate is undeveloped and that he
hasn’t yet acquired a preference for salty tastes! In fact, foods that you consider bland may be
perfectly acceptable to your little one – after all, he won’t miss what he hasn’t yet experienced.
On the other hand, ensuring that your baby’s food is ‘salt-free’ doesn’t mean that it has to be
‘flavour-free’ too! In fact, one of the aims of our site is to help you create meals for your baby that
are both safe AND delicious!
Adding flavour without adding salt
Instead of adding salt to baby food, try adding
herbs, aromatic spices or garlic
instead. These ‘natural flavourings’ actually offer many health benefits in their own right.
Some parents choose to use No-Salt Herbal Seasonings in their babies’ meals – a little
black pepper adds a flavourful boost to dishes, too – and is also a wonderful aid to digestion.
Do bear in mind that herbs, spices and garlic should be treated as new foods when you first introduce them
to your baby – this means that they should be given separately, at least four days apart,
to help you identify and avoid potential food allergies
or digestive problems.
And remember – the introduction of ANY new foods should first be discussed with your child’s doctor.
Adding salt to baby food – hidden sources of salt in your little one’s diet
- Be VERY careful when preparing formula for your baby. The instructions on
formula cans tell you that it’s important to ensure your baby’s formula is not too
concentrated – this is partly because too high a concentration of formula will contain too
- Do not use commercial gravy or stock cubes when cooking for your baby, as
these are high in salt. Instead, try our recipes for
- If you use canned/tinned vegetables when cooking for your baby, check the
label to make sure no salt has been added.
- It may seem safe to give foods created for toddlers to your baby. But toddlers can tolerate
slightly higher levels of salt than those recommended for an infant. Instead, make sure that any
commercially prepared foods you give your baby are labelled as being appropriate for his age group.
- Look for low sodium cheeses when shopping for your baby and check labels on bread very
carefully – you’d be surprised by just how much salt some brands contain!
- Avoid processes meats (like ham, pepperoni etc) and other processed foods like
ready made sauces and baked beans. The levels of salt in these foods will be too high for your baby.