Salty Baby? Our Sodium Preference May Be Set During Infancy


Our craving preference for salt begins as early as infancy, according to new research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In an interesting experiment, researchers were able to show that the first types of solid foods given to a baby, will determine the level of lifelong preference for salt.

Here’s what they did:

… researchers studied 61 infants from the Philadelphia area at 2 months, then again at 6 months of age. At both points, they gave the babies three bottles, each containing water; a 1% salt solution, which mimics the saltiness of chicken noodle soup; or a 2% salt solution, which is the equivalent of doubling that bowl of chicken noodle soup’s saltiness.

The babies were given two minutes to drink out of each bottle. To assess each infant’s affinity for salt, researchers compared how much salt solution they drank compared to plain water. If they drank more of the salty bottles, they were categorized as preferring the salt solution; if they drank less, they were classified as rejecting it. Babies who drank the same amount of water or salty liquid were described as indifferent.

At 2 months of age, researchers found that babies were indifferent to the 1% solution and flat-out rejected the 2% mixture. But by 6 months, some appeared to have developed a taste for salt.  Read more from Time…

So what happened in between month 2 and 6? Some of the babies began eating solids. Those that were given homemade mashed veggies and other unprocessed foods did not like the salt solutions. The infants who did sample prepared baby meals and snacks (which have added salt), were more likely to appreciate the salty drink.

So what should parents to babies do?

Wait with the solids.

Prepare homemade foods (it’s really easy to boil water and cook veggies, then mash them)

Read labels on baby food. You’ll be surprised at how some foods have more salt than imagined. This includes breads, cereals, Goldfish crackers, Animal crackers, etc…

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  • Ken Leebow

    Per Harvard Medical School (and many others) …

    Our cravings for fat, salt, and sugar started back when humans lived in caves and hunted and gathered for their food. Fat, salt, and sugar were in short supply. So to ensure that we ate adequate supplies of each, we evolved a craving for them. 

    And, if a picture is worth 1,000 words, this snapshot of an M&M’s commercial speaks volumes …

  • Renee Titelbaum

    In case you hadn’t seen it yet, this 2010 blog post from PhD in Parenting went viral yesterday. It’s a good read.

  • 1 Pediatrician

    Oh Lord, more dangerous advice from Fooducate.

    You cannot possibly justify advising parents to casually whip together baby food from scratch…parents who you constantly berate as being too stupid to feed themselves appropriately. Have any of you quacks ever opened the cover of a scientifically valid nutrition textbook?

  • Anonymous

    It is a stretch, to say the least, to conclude that a baby preferring more salt at 6-months will predict their affinity for salt in the future.

    • Ccbweb

      Why is that a stretch?  There are indications that it may be so.

      • Anonymous

        Indications based on a small study group, over a short period of time, using surrogate data. Hardly rock solid evidence. 

  • Amber @ Au Coeur

    Not sure how much has changed, but in 2010, The Canadian Stroke Association gave its “Salt Lick Award” to Gerber for ridiculously high salt content in foods.  We always made our own, not only is it healthier but it’s cheaper too.

  • Amber @ Au Coeur

    Not sure how much has changed, but in 2010, The Canadian Stroke Association gave its “Salt Lick Award” to Gerber for ridiculously high salt content in foods.  We always made our own, not only is it healthier but it’s cheaper too.

    • Elizabeth

      I have two boys (4yrs and 20 months) and we made ALL of our own food for them (I can’t even IMAGINE buying canned/jarred baby food).  It was SO easy to make and it was REALLY nice to know exactly what they were eating.  I have encouraged many friends to do the same (I am surprised at how many people have ever given it thought — they just buy jarred baby food, like it’s the ONLY option out there). 

  • FedUpWithFoodiePreaching

    Inflicting your orthorexic foodie nonsense on innocent babe now! Oh well, your kid may end up malnourished from eating a chaotic slush of vegetable pulp but the kid won’t succumb to high blood pressure from salt intake. Good deal…fooducate has saved another life, no doubt. Stupid douchebags.

  • Darryl Miglio

    I believe that our body lets us know what it needs.  Crave is not the word I would use.  Our mistake is to abuse that prompt by taking in too much salt or sugar or fat. 

    I’d like to have that blast of sugar at night, I don’t feed it with a heaping bowl of full fat, sugar-laden ice cream.  A small handful of almonds or raisins works.  Convincing the kids of the same is a challenge.  Easier to ‘convince’ them if there is no ice cream in freezer.

  • Klanderfelt

    This TED talk by Annie Murphy Paul suggests that we develop a preference for tastes like salt in th womb.