Food diversification is an important step in your child's development. Your baby's growth is important during his first year. On average, in one year, his birth weight increases threefold, his height increases by about 50% and his brain weight increases from 350 g to more than one kilo (1). Feeding your baby is therefore very important to provide him with his nutritional needs for his development. When should you start diversifying your baby's diet ? Which foods should be avoided? How much should I give him ? In this blog article, we will deal with this subject which is as interesting as it can be frightening for young parents.
- What is food diversification ?
- The two types of food diversification
- When should you start to diversify your baby's diet ?
- If baby refuses solid food, how should he react ?
- Foods to avoid for a baby
- How much to give baby?
- The key points for successful diversification
What is dietary diversification ?
Dietary diversification is a feeding strategy that results in the integration of solid foods into your baby's daily routine in order to provide a balanced and varied diet. From birth and for several months, your baby is fed exclusively with milk. This dietary diversification will enable the gradual introduction of more nutritious foods to ensure your baby's development and health and to cover the body's nutritional needs by avoiding deficiencies in essential nutrients. This is a very important transition as it will allow your baby to develop his senses, his tastes and his muscles.
The two types of dietary diversification
Classical food diversification
The first method is to introduce food in a smooth texture. This is because in the first few months your baby is not yet able to chew food of any texture. It is therefore important to make this transition gradually. You can start your food diversification with smooth textures and then gradually introduce crushed ingredients or even chunks (well cooked and soft then hard). Learning to chew will be done gradually by varying the textures of the different foods.
Child-led dietary diversification (CDD)
Child-led dietary diversification (CDD) is an approach to child feeding that encourages the child's active participation in choosing and preparing their own food. EMD promotes food autonomy by giving children the freedom to choose what they want to eat, while offering them a variety of healthy and nutritious foods. The aim is to give him pieces to take in hand with adapted textures. The baby will discover his tastes and textures while going at his own pace.
It is also possible to mix these two diversifications.
When should we start feeding ?
At what age do you start to diversify your diet ?
The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends that parents start from 6 months. However, it is important to be observant with your baby to understand his or her different needs. Food diversification can begin between 4 and 6 months of age if you see that your baby is able to swallow properly and maintain a sitting position with some support so that everything goes smoothly and safely.
Do I need a doctor's approval to start ?
It is possible to consult a paediatrician before starting to diversify to make sure that the child is healthy and ready to eat solid foods. However, you don't need a specific agreement to start this transition.
What is the best time of day to start ?
It is generally recommended that you start feeding at lunchtime. This way, your baby is fully awake at this time of day, allowing him to react properly to the food. This lunchtime meal will also allow parents to monitor their child following the introduction of new foods and to support them in case of allergies or digestive problems.
If baby refuses solid food, what should you do?
It is quite normal for the baby to refuse solid food at the beginning of the feeding process. The child needs to learn to eat solid foods and develop chewing and swallowing skills, which may take some time.
If your baby refuses to eat, it is important to remain calm and not force him or her. You can offer small amounts of food with a spoon and allow time to explore different tastes and textures.
If the child continues to refuse, it is important to persevere and keep offering new foods. In the first year, the one thing that covers all needs is milk, so don't worry.
Foods to avoid for a baby
It is important to know that some foods are not recommended, or even to be avoided to preserve your baby's health :
- Fruit juices: too high a sugar content
- Foods rich in fibre: cabbage, fennel, etc.
- Salt and pepper
- Allergenic foods : exotic fruits, red fruits, egg whites, seafood, peanuts...
- The WHO advises against giving honey to babies before they are 1 year old (risk of infant botulism)
How much to give baby?
It is important to ask a health professional for specific advice on the amount of food to give your baby during feeding. In general, it is recommended to start with small amounts (2-4 spoonfuls) and gradually increase (100-200g) according to baby's needs and abilities. Little by little, he will eat more and more, trust his appetite!
Key points for successful diversification
- Watching your baby
- Prepare baby's meals yourself with fresh food (baby food jars should be used occasionally)
- Prepare legible plates: do not mix flavours at the beginning of diversification
- Preferably steam his meals
- Freeze your preparations (Caution: always defrost in your steam cooker and not in the microwave)
- Prepare baby's meals and quantities in advance
- Include Omega-3 in your meals every day: linseed oil, rapeseed oil, walnuts, etc.
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(1) Infant feeding, Anses.