Salt: How Much is Too Much?
Babies should have less than 1g of salt (0.4g of sodium) a day, for their first year. Too much salt is damaging to their kidneys, and also gives them a taste for salty foods which can cause health problems later in life. Studies have found that too much salt in a newborn's diet increases their blood pressure levels later on in life, and can also make them more susceptible to cancer-causing carcinogens. Salt does serve an important function however, and your baby needs some salt for muscle and nerve function, as well as for regulating blood pressure. Both breast milk and formula contain the right amount of salt for your baby however, which is why you shouldn't add any salt to your baby's food and monitor how much salt the foods you give your baby contain.
When your baby starts solids, don't add salt to any of his food. If you want to give your baby family meals, take out his portion before adding any salt or butter. You should also avoid ready made foods that aren't designed for babies, such as adult cereal, porridge or ready meals, as these contain too much salt for babies.
Many foods that are labelled as 'baby-friendly' actually contain high levels of salt. Foods to watch are baby biscuits, crisps, rice crackers, canned and jarred baby or toddler food (especially pasta and cheese meals). Other foods which are often a hit with babies but are high in salt include breadsticks, baked beans, bread, Marmite, and salty meat such as bacon. This doesn't mean you can't ever give your baby these foods; your baby needs a balanced, varied diet, but approach with caution, and cut down on salty snacks by swapping them with vegetable sticks and chopped fruit (make sure you use age appropriate food, see our article A Guide to Introducing Solids). To check what foods contain too much salt, look at the sodium levels on the packet. 0.6g of sodium in 100g is a lot of salt. 0.1g or less is a small amount of salt, and is safe for your baby.