Salt Intake Guidelines for Babies
There are some foods to avoid for babies under one year of age, and salt tops the list. A baby's kidneys aren't mature enough to effectively cope with salt. This is often the biggest change that parents need to make in order to share foods at mealtimes with their baby. You may be surprised at how much sodium is contained in processed and store-bought foods - and quite often, these foods will need to be removed from the menu for baby.
How much salt can babies eat?
Here are some handy guidelines:
- Children under 1: Less than 1g salt or 0.4g sodium daily
- Children 1-3 years: Less than 2g salt or 0.8g sodium daily
- Children 4-6 years: Less than 3g salt or 1.2g sodium daily
(As a comparison, adult guidelines are to eat no more than 6g salt or 2.4g sodium daily, and most well exceed this guideline regularly.)
There will be some days when baby will come far under this recommendation (for example, if they are primarily eating whole foods and homemade foods), and some days where they may near their limit. Keep an eye on how much salt or sodium is included in baby's foods so you can keep a rough tally throughout the day.
Hidden sources of salt and sodium
Salt is hidden in virtually everything! If you include any store-bought, processed food in your baby's diet, you need to keep an eye on the nutritional information to ensure that you're not over salting. Secretly salty foods include:
- bacon and ham
- cured meats and deli meats
- stock cubes
- smoked fish
- some nut butters
If these foods are on the menu, be sure to keep an eye on your baby's overall salt intake for the day. Find some trustworthy brands that cut back on salt and sugar and add them to your weekly shop.
But won't the food be bland?
Keep in mind that foods are all new to baby, so there's no comparison they can make :) Low-salt food can still be incredibly flavourful - you can add any kind of spice you like!
But doesn't baby's milk contain salt?
If you're breast feeding, your breast milk naturally contains a trace amount of salt, from your diet. But nature has taken care of any concerns and you do not need to worry about too much salt from your breastmilk.
For formula-fed babies, their milk is carefully designed to contain just enough salt and no more. Formula is rigorously formulated and tested, so you needn't worry, as long as you follow your brand's instructions on how to make the formula.
What effect does excessive salt have on a baby's health?
Exceeding salt intake guidelines regularly, or even for a few days, can result in stomach discomfort, dehydration and diarrhoea (wet and loose stools), Longer term, it can also result in seizures and high blood pressure, putting more strain on baby's heart muscles. If you suspect your baby has had too much salt, see your health professional as soon as possible.
Want to know what other foods to avoid?
Download a PDF of the Magic List of Baby-Led Weaning Foods for a handy reference you can stick on the fridge!