You’ve probably noticed that bread can be tricky for babies…
Surprisingly, when it comes to bread for babies, starting with the crusty ends of bread (or strips of toasted sliced bread) can actually be safer than slice or strip of soft, pillowy breads like Wonder Bread.
- Soft, sliced bread has a tendency to glom up in the mouth and can form a large, mealy mass that your baby is likely to struggle with. If sucked on long enough it may cling to the roof of their mouth as well, making it difficult to expel. Soft breads are notorious for causing gagging, too.
- Soft, doughy bread can more easily be shoveled into the mouth whole. While baby is not likely to swallow a whole strip of bread, they are likely to spit it out when they can’t handle working with it anymore. (Which is a useful skill but kind of defeats the purpose.)
- Unlike the soft middle of sliced bread, the crusty ends of country bread or the crusts of toasted sliced bread hold up to the powerful suck and grip of a 6 to 9-month-old baby. They also offer wonderful opportunities for practicing biting and tearing.
So when it comes to bread for babies, it’s best to start with the crusty ends, and then when baby’s pincer grasp forms, to go way down in size to small torn pieces, which will increase consumption. If your child is handling the large strip of bread just fine still at 9 months, you can absolutely skip the small pieces and hop over to a bigger slice of toast or stick with the large strips. It all depends on the type of bread, of course, and baby’s chewing and swallowing skills.
If you’d like to go with sliced bread, definitely toast it. Toasting helps remove the moisture, making it less likely to become a mealy mass in baby’s mouth. Toasting also helps the bread hold together better.
You will find, too, that bread often steals the show from other more nutritious foods. If that is happening try occasionally serving bread as a second course to give the other foods on the plate a head start, or saving bread for snack time when it’s not competing with other foods.
Now the fun part: which bread? There are many wonderful breads to explore with your little one, and each offers distinct benefits—from nutrition, to expanding your baby’s palate, to oral development.
Nutrition: From a standpoint of nutrition, it’s hard to beat sprouted grain bread. (Common brands are Ezekiel bread, Dave’s Killer bread, or Silver Hills.) Sprouted grain bread does not use flour but rather whole grains that have begun to sprout (which can increase nutrients and make them easier to absorb as well). Sprouted grain breads often contain legumes as well, giving them a good boost of iron and protein. And unlike many sliced breads you see on the shelves, sprouted grain breads often boast they are made without refined sugar, softeners, or artificial preservatives.
Palate: For those focused on expanding their baby’s palette, go for a variety of flavor-forward breads that don’t have a lot of sugar or sweeteners added. Arepas, buckwheat, chapati, chickpea bread, corn bread, dosa, injera, lavash, lefse, naan, sourdough, soda bread, pumpernickel, roti, and spelt breads are all fun to try, though there are so many more.
Oral Development: Bread can be terrific for strengthening the jaws and learning how to tear. Crusty boules, sourdough, baguette, bagel, bialy, ciabatta, filone, flat breads, ka’ak, pretzel bread, and roti will all challenge your little chewer. These breads will be the hardest to consume, so try giving them to your baby or toddler after they’ve already got some food in the belly.
And there’s no need to stop there. From Jamaican bammy to Chinese laobing, to arepas and corn bread, there are more than 150 types of bread to explore. And many are easy to make at home.