When Can My Baby Have Salt?

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Once your baby starts solids, it can be exciting to watch their reactions as you serve them different foods and flavors. But, feeding your baby something other than breast milk or formula can also bring up questions and concerns about what is safe for them to eat and what is not. Some foods are OK, but not until baby reaches a certain age. Others are healthy in small amounts only.

Salt is a natural part of the human diet, but most people today eat far too much of it, which can lead to health problems. Babies in particular should not have too much salt.

"Up until 12 months of age, your baby is getting enough salt from formula and breast milk, so there is no need to add salt to any other foods," says Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician and the executive medical director at GoodRx. "After that, it is only safe in very limited amounts." Here's what you need to know about your baby and salt consumption.

Is Salt Safe for My Baby?

The natural salt found in breast milk or formula is safe for your baby, but that is all they need. Adding salt to solid foods is not recommended for babies under age 1. This means you should not add salt while cooking and you should avoid feeding your baby processed food or restaurant food, which is often high in sodium.

"Salt, or sodium chloride, is an essential nutrient that naturally occurs in most foods and is present in formula and breast milk," says Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "It is not necessary to add salt to a baby's diet in most cases."

In fact, adding salt to your baby's diet could be harmful to their kidneys, since their kidneys are unable to cope with high amounts of salt. Introducing solid foods without salting them will also help your baby develop a taste for unsalted foods, which can lead to healthier eating throughout their lives.

Risks of Giving Baby Salt Too Soon

Although salt is an essential mineral, you don't generally have to worry about your baby getting enough. Barring any specific medical conditions, babies will consume enough sodium just by drinking breast milk or formula.

The concern is making sure that your baby does not have too much salt. Adding salt to your baby's diet is likely to push them past the recommended amount and may cause problems.

Kidney Damage

Babies' kidneys are not fully developed yet and they may not be able to handle excessive salt. It's especially important to avoid processed or prepackaged foods since these foods tend to have the highest sodium content.

High Blood Pressure

Starting salt young might develop your baby's taste for salty foods—which is fine to an extent, but too much salt may cause problems—putting them at risk for elevated blood pressure as they grow. High blood pressure in children is linked to health risks such as heart disease.

Weakened Immunity

Recent research has linked excessive salt intake to a weakened immune system. The research found that consuming too much salt makes the kidneys work too hard, releasing substances into the body that inhibit immune system functioning.

When and How to Introduce Salt

After your child turns 1, you can consider introducing a pinch of salt to season foods. However, it is best to minimize processed foods since they are high in salt. "Often, store-bought foods already contain salt in them," says Dr. Parikh. "Eating these items will almost certainly put your baby above the recommended amount, which can cause issues."

If you do choose to serve processed foods, do not add salt to cooking. "Keep in mind if you are using condiments with sodium, such as soy sauce or ketchup, or giving your child saltier foods like luncheon meat, macaroni and cheese, or canned foods, you may already be meeting or exceeding the sodium recommendations for young children," notes Morey.

What Amount of Salt Should I Give My Baby?

Avoid giving salt to babies under 1. After age 1, they can consume a very small amount, about as much as a pinch added to home-cooked food.

Amount of Salt to Give Your Baby, Based on Age
 Birth to 1 Year Less than 1 gram per day (no added salt)
 1 to 3 Years  No more than 2 grams per day
4 to 6 Years  No more than 3 grams per day

A Word From Verywell

It is not advisable to add any salt to a baby's diet. Babies already get all the sodium they need from breast milk and formula. Adding to that amount can be harmful. Prepackaged and restaurant foods tend to have high amounts of salt, so it is best for your baby to avoid eating them.

If your baby doesn't eat very much or seems to be a picky eater, hold off on seasoning the food with salt to make it more appetizing. Instead, serve a variety of nutritious foods and let your little one decide which foods they eat and how much. If you have any concerns about your child's eating habits, always reach out to your pediatrician.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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