Baby may be inching her way closer and closer every day to the exciting world of food that hasn’t all been pureed into a uniform mass of mush, but just because she is starting to have enough teeth to take a bite out of a more varied diet doesn’t mean she is ready to take a seat all the way at the big kids’ table yet. Her mouth may be a bit more mature, but her kidneys are still itty-bitty, and not quite ready to deal with salt.
Even after they’ve started to be introduced to solids, babies continue to get all the sodium they need in their diets from formula or breast milk. In fact, one of the reasons babies shouldn’t switch from formula or breast milk over to cow’s milk until after their first birthdays is that the salt content in cow’s milk is too high. One year isn’t the time to bust out the salt shaker and pull Baby’s high chair up to the dining table for an adult meal yet, though.
Children over a year old have a slightly higher tolerance for salt – 1 to 2g per day, rather than less than 1g per day, like babies under a year – but all of that tolerance will generally end up going towards any processed foods that are a part of Baby’s diet, from cereal to bread to some canned vegetables. In fact, most foods that aren’t designed specifically for babies have an added sodium content high enough that even with your over-one-year-old’s heightened tolerance, it’s important to limit salt intake even if Baby never sees the business-end of a salt-shaker.
On the other hand, if Baby gets her hands on a french fry, it’s not the end of the world. More than any specific amount of salt, it’s important, with young children, to get into the habit of serving unsalted, fresh foods as much as possible. A healthy set of general eating habits will defeat the occasional little treat any time.
Children’s ability to process salt, and their need for it, grows as they do, but it won’t be until Baby is around 11 years old that her kidneys and digestive system will need or be able to handle the level of salt that adults can.