When can babies eat bread?
Bread may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note: Bread often contains common allergens like dairy, egg, sesame, soy, tree nut, and wheat so introduce with care.
Background and origins of bread
Bread is the most widely consumed food in the world. For thousands of years, humans have been baking bread by grinding plants into meal, mixing flour with water, and exposing dough to heat. The sprawling family tree of bread likely began with flatbread—a simple flour-and-water dough cooked quickly on a hot surface. Fast-forward from that humble beginning to today: every day, bakers produce hundreds of styles of savory and sweet bread across the world, from Afghani bolani to Belgian waffle to Chinese laobing to Indian papadum to Jamaican bammy to Mexican pan dulce to Nepali sel roti. Some breads like French croissants and Philippine pandesal are leavened with yeast, which puffs the dough as the bacteria consumes sugars in the flour. Other breads omit leavening agents, such as lavash, matzo, roti, and tortilla. The type of flour used to bake bread varies widely, too. Wheat is the world’s most common bread grain, but some bakers choose flours made of barley, corn, millet, oats, sorghum, rice, and rye. Others bake gluten-free breads with flours made of legumes, nuts, and root vegetables like cassava or yuca, the key ingredient in Taino flatbread called casabe.
What type of bread would you like to serve to a baby? Bread is deeply personal and connected to culture, family, history, and religion. Whether you want to serve your favorite or explore a new-to-you bread, let’s dive into how to introduce this beloved staple food.
Is bread healthy for babies?
Yes—when consumed as part of a balanced diet. All bread offers plenty of carbohydrates plus some fiber and protein, too. However, nutrition varies widely depending on the type of bread, with some offering more nutrients than others.
Among the most nutritious breads are those made from fermented or sprouted grains. Sprouted grains have begun the germination process, meaning that the seeds have started to sprout from exposure to water and warm temperatures. This process can make the grains easier for the human body to digest and absorb nutrients.1 And often breads made with fermented and sprouted grains offer more nutrients than breads made with whole grains.
Breads made entirely of whole grain are also an excellent choice for babies as they offer much more fiber, protein, and nutrients than breads made of refined flour. When you want to give baby an extra boost of nutrition, choose breads labeled “100% whole grain” over those labeled “whole wheat” or “whole grain”, which are misleading terms as these breads often contain a mixture of whole grain flour and refined flour, which offers less nutrition than 100% whole grain.2 3
★Tip: When shopping for bread, read the ingredient list closely. Some breads contain common allergens such as dairy, egg, sesame, soy, and tree nuts and many have added sodium and sweeteners. When you can, opt for bread made with fortified or enriched flour with less than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving and no added sugar. Learn more about navigating sodium and sugar in a baby’s diet.
Which breads are most nutritious for babies?
In our professional opinion, it’s hard to beat breads made with fermented grains or sprouted grains. These breads offer so much more nutrition than breads made with refined grains that are stripped of the nutrient-rich parts of the seed kernels.
Breads made of sprouted grains (brands like Angelic, Dave’s Killer Bread, Ezekiel Bread by Foods for Life, and Silver Hills) are packed with protein and fiber. They also offer lots of B-vitamins and minerals like iron and selenium. Sometimes sprouted grain breads even contain legumes like lentils, mung beans, or soybeans, which offer an extra nutritional boost. They also often omit excess sodium and added sweeteners.
Bread made from traditional lactic acid fermentation (such as broa, injera, kisra, and sourdough) are also an excellent choice as they contain beneficial bacteria that help babies build a healthy gut.4 Nutrition varies based on the ingredients and style of baking, yet studies have found that generally fermented breads are easier to digest than breads made with dry yeast, plus their nutrients are more easily absorbed by the human body.5
★Tip: Choose breads made of organic wheat when budget and access allow for it—or opt for breads made of alternative grains, such as like amaranth, buckwheat, emmer, Khorasan wheat, quinoa, or spelt. Breads made with conventionally-grown wheat that is heavily sprayed with pesticides can negatively impact human and environmental health.6 7
How much bread can babies and toddlers have in a day?
Bread is considered a grain food and, similar to dairy products, recommendations for grain foods are given in servings per day and will vary by age and a child’s individual needs. One serving of a grain food for a child is generally given in 1-ounce (~28 g) equivalents (but please, don’t measure this out, it is fine to eyeball) and looks like: 1 regular slice of bread, 1 mini bagel or about ¼ of a large bagel, 1 small corn tortilla, ½ cup of cooked grains (like rice, bulgur, barley, or oats) or cooked pasta, or around 1 cup of dry cereal. While all of these foods don’t technically weigh 1 ounce, they are all considered 1 serving of grain foods.8 9 10
When it comes to amounts recommended by age, remember that the goal here is just to make sure the child doesn’t overly fill up on bread and grains and not have space for other foods, like proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Any child may eat more or less than what’s recommended, depending on their appetite, age, and general needs, and that is totally normal and okay! Remember, as the adult, it’s your job to decide which types of food to offer and when, but it’s up to the child to decide how much they eat.
Grain servings by age:
6 to 12 months old: No set recommendations. Time to explore and gradually learn how to eat grain foods! Opt for whole grains where you can, but don’t sweat it if that’s not always possible.
12 to 23 months: Total of 1.75-3-ounce equivalents daily, which could look like ~2-3 slices of bread OR about ~1-1.5 cups of cooked grains or pasta daily. Over the course of 1 day, this could look like 1 small wheat roti, ¼ cup of cooked bulgur, and ½ cup of cooked oatmeal.
24 to 36 months: Total of 3-5-ounce equivalents daily. This could look like ~3-5 slices of bread OR about ~1.5-2.5 cups of cooked grains or pasta daily. Over the course of 1 day, this could look like 1 small corn tortilla, ½ cup of cooked bulgur, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal, and 1 cup of dry cereal.
Is bread a common allergen?
Yes. Bread often contains common allergens like milk, egg, sesame, soy, tree nut, and wheat. Read labels closely and wait to introduce breads until all common allergens on the ingredient list have been safely introduced.
Wheat is one of the most common food allergens in children.11 Fortunately, two-thirds of children outgrow the allergy by their 12th birthday.12 Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to wheat, particularly those who are allergic to grass pollen. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth. It is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.13
While rare, some individuals have a condition known as wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which can result in a severe allergic reaction if the person exercises within a few hours after eating wheat. These patients should avoid eating wheat in the four hours before strenuous activity.14
It is important to note that wheat allergy is not the same as celiac disease. While a wheat allergy may be outgrown, celiac disease requires a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet and lifestyle.15 A gluten “allergy” is typically a misnomer, often in reference to celiac disease.16
If your baby has a family history of allergies or you suspect your baby is allergic to wheat, talk to a pediatric health care provider before introducing bread at home. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount over future servings.
Can babies eat gluten?
Yes—as long as a child does not have wheat allergy, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or celiac disease. Gluten is simply a type of protein in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, and some oats. Gluten is edible, but it becomes problematic for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, characterized by damage of the small intestine when gluten is consumed.17 18 19 Some individuals may be sensitive to gluten but may not have an allergy or celiac disease. In some cases, this may be non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, gluten-containing grains can also contain certain carbohydrates that are difficult for some individuals to digest.
Talk to a health care provider if you are concerned about issues related to gluten and digestion.
Is bread a common choking hazard for babies?
It can be. Bread can be tricky for babies as can soften and stick together, forming a large mass in the mouth that can cling to the tongue and roof of mouth. To minimize the risk, toast bread before serving to young babies and consider adding a thin layer of a smooth spread mashed avocado, fresh ricotta cheese, hummus, labneh, or yogurt to aid swallowing.
As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, to stay within an arm’s reach of a baby during mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
How to cut bread for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Large ends of thick, crusty bread and strips of toast about the size of two adult fingers held together can be safer than thin pieces of soft sliced bread, which can clump and stick together in the mouth. Look for bread pieces that have some resistance to them and if any piece is making you nervous, simply remove it from your baby’s eating area and replace it with something else. Refrain from offering bread with sticky nut butter on it to minimize the choking risk.
9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies develop a pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. As such, this is a great time to move down in size to thin matchstick strips of toast or small, bite-sized pieces of bread. If baby is shoveling many pieces of bread or stuffing whole strips of bread in at once, offer more resistive breads like the crusty end, and model how to take bites, to tear pieces off with your teeth, and to chew well.
12 to 18 months old: Go time! This is a great age to explore a wide variety of breads and to offer slices for biting, tearing, and chewing practice. Offer large pieces of sliced bread cut in half or quarters. As your toddler’s chewing skills improve, you can expect less gagging, but any moist, sticky bread may still cause some gagging even at this age. If a child is routinely taking too-big bites of bread, with go bigger and more resistant in size, or offer less bite-size pieces at a time.
18 to 24 months old: Sandwich time! Babies like to take apart a sandwich to explore what’s inside and eat the pieces separately. Around the 18- to 24-month-mark, toddlers learn how to keep the sandwich together, which unlocks a world of possibilities at mealtime. Avoid deli meats (which are packed with sodium and nitrates) and jams or jellies (which are packed with sugar). If mixed consistencies (foods with more than one texture) are new for your toddler, supervise your child closely the first few times a sandwich is offered as they will be figuring out how to manage the different textures in one bite.
Recipe: Fresh Lemony Cheese on Toast
Yield: 1 slice
Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 1 slice sprouted grain bread, sourdough, or bread of choice
- 1 tablespoon fresh ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese, labneh, or quark
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon sesame seed (optional)
- Lightly toast the bread.
- Mix the cheese and lemon zest.
- Thinly spread the lemony cheese on the toast. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
- Cut the toast into strips for babies between 6 and 12 months of age or keep whole for toddlers.
To Serve: Lay the toast in front of baby. Let your child self-feed if they can. If baby needs help, pass the toast in the air for baby to grab from you.
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy, sesame, and wheat. Only serve to your child after each of these individual allergens have been introduced safely.
Bread pairs with sweet and savory foods alike. Try experimenting with different flavor combinations that suite your family’s preferences and tastes.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Benincasa, P., Falcinelli, B., Lutts, S., Stagnari, F., & Galieni, A. (2019). Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients, 11(2), 421. DOI:10.3390/nu11020421. Retrieved February 19, 2021
- United States Food & Drug Administration. (2006). Draft Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff: Whole Grain Label Statements. Retrieved February 19, 2021
- United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Unit. (2017). Food Safety and Inspection Service Guideline on Whole Grain Statements on the Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products. Retrieved February 19, 2021
- Petrova, P., Petrov, K. (2020). Lactic Acid Fermentation of Cereals and Pseudocereals: Ancient Nutritional Biotechnologies with Modern Applications. Nutrients, 12(4), 1118. DOI:10.3390/nu12041118. Retrieved February 19, 2021
- Petrova, P., & Petrov, K. (2020). Lactic Acid Fermentation of Cereals and Pseudocereals: Ancient Nutritional Biotechnologies with Modern Applications. Nutrients, 12(4), 1118. DOI:10.3390/nu12041118. Retrieved February 19, 2021
- Ram, H., Rashid, A., Zhang, W. et al. Biofortification of wheat, rice and common bean by applying foliar zinc fertilizer along with pesticides in seven countries. Plant Soil 403, 389–401 (2016). DOI:10.1007/s11104-016-2815-3. Retrieved February 17, 2021
- Yılmaz, H., Cagla Ormeci Kart, M., Demircan, V. (2016). Economic analysis of pesticide use in wheat production for sustainable rural development. International Conference: Economic Science for Rural Development, 42(16), 295-302. Retrieved February 17, 2021
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Grains. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2018). Kids and portion control. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2020). What and how much should my preschooler be eating? Retrieved April 4, 2021.
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
- Kashyap, R. R., & Kashyap, R. S. (2015). Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. Journal of allergy, 2015, 543928. DOI:10.1155/2015/543928. Retrieved February 17, 2021
- Feldweg AM. Food-Dependent, Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis: Diagnosis and Management in the Outpatient Setting. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2017 Mar-Apr;5(2):283-288. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2016.11.022. PMID: 28283153.
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved February 17, 2021
- Celiac Disease Foundation. What is Celiac Disease? Retrieved February 17, 2021
- Massachusetts General Hospital. Center for Celiac Research: Celiac Disease FAQ. Retrieved February 17, 2021
- Elli, L., Branchi, F., Tomba, C., Villalta, D., Norsa, L., et al. (2015). Diagnosis of gluten related disorders: Celiac disease, wheat allergy and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. World journal of gastroenterology, 21(23), 7110–7119. DOI:10.3748/wjg.v21.i23.7110. Retrieved February 17, 2021