How do I begin to diversify my diet?
What is food diversification?
Dietary diversification is the introduction of solid and liquid foods, other than breast milk, into your baby's diet. Dietary diversification begins at 4 months of age at the earliest and continues until 6 months of age at the latest. After this age, breast milk no longer covers all the nutritional needs of the baby.
What are the WHO recommendations on food diversification?
The WHO recommends starting food diversification at 6 months. Before 6 months, the WHO recommends feeding your child exclusively with breast milk. From 6 months onwards, baby's nutritional needs change, and the introduction of solid foods can begin.
Allergists recommend starting food diversification at 4 months. In fact, the later allergenic foods are introduced, the higher the risk of allergy. So, ideally, you should start baby's food diversification between 4 and 6 months of age. Introducing food too quickly or too late can be detrimental to the development of allergen tolerance.
With all these different recommendations, it is difficult to know when is the ideal age to begin food diversification. The best thing to do is to listen to your pediatrician. He or she will be able to guide you so that your baby evolves in the best conditions.
No matter what you see on social networks or what people around you tell you, listen to your pediatrician, only he will really know how to guide you.
How to start baby's dietary diversification?
Growing-up milk or breast milk remains the main food until 1 year.
The aim of food diversification is to help your baby discover new flavors, textures, smells and colors and to transmit the pleasure of eating.
As parents, when you start to diversify your baby's diet, you have to listen to your child. The introduction of food to the baby is an important step in the child's development process. A step that can be experienced differently by the parents and the baby. A baby can be more joyful or more resistant to the introduction of vegetables or fruits in his diet. It is important to never force your child and to be patient, to listen and to observe his reactions in order to adapt to his tastes. It is important to give him time to discover new colors, flavors and textures that he has never been confronted with before.
Above all, do not force him! This would be counterproductive and would lead to systematic opposition at mealtime. If he doesn't show any desire to discover or if he refuses to eat a food, offer him the same food a few days later.
Tip: to get your child used to this new diet, you can give him a spoon so that he gets used to this new tool.
To start diversifying, it is advisable to start with one food, preferably a vegetable (one food only to detect a potential allergy), whether it is cooked, blended or pureed, it doesn't matter.
Continue with the same vegetable for 3 days, gradually increasing the number of spoonfuls
After these 3 days, you can switch to another vegetable, using the same process. Then 3 days after the integration of this new vegetable, you can start to integrate a new vegetable, always in the same way of process (cooked, mixed or pureed and alone). This frequency of introduction of food should be maintained for 15 days.
Start with purées and compotes mixed in a fine way, then thicken the textures as you go along to finally arrive at meals in small pieces and ground.
How do you know if your baby is ready to start diversifying?
We consider that a baby is ready to begin food diversification when he shows interest in his parents' meal, when he looks at it and wants to touch it and bring it to his mouth. If your baby cries, screams and refuses the spoon, it's simply because he's not ready, and that's okay. There's no point in trying to force a child to eat, it will just create trauma. You can try again to give this spoon 10 or 15 days later.
What should I do if my baby refuses to diversify?
We hear a lot of rumors about food diversification: listen to yourself, trust yourself and trust your child.
If your baby refuses to diversify at first, you must take his time to get used to these new tastes, colors and textures. Give him a small amount on a spoon. By small quantity, we mean the size of a grain of semolina. This will allow the child to get used to the taste, and a few days later, you can offer him a larger quantity. His brain will already have memorized the taste of the food.
It's all a question of adaptation time.
On average, it takes 10 attempts to know if a baby really dislikes a food.
What difficulties can be encountered during the diversification process?
Food diversification can cause a number of difficulties.
Introducing your child to solid foods can be a source of stress for parents who are afraid of choking.
Yes, the risk of choking is present, as it is at any age in life.
Your baby needs to learn to chew, chew solid food and then swallow it. The child does not need teeth to learn to chew, there is no more risk of choking on a piece of food than on milk or puree. On the other hand, you should be wary of small cereals or small foods that are the size of the windpipe.
To make it easier to learn how to diversify, put yourself in a quiet place, without television or anything that could distract your child.
Child-led dietary diversification (CDD) (discussed next) tends to increase choking concerns in children.
The few studies that exist have shown that there is not really a significant difference in choking risk compared to conventional diversification.
Nevertheless, it is essential that each parent applies the right gestures in case of choking. You can train yourself in first aid, or watch videos: there are many on the subject. In addition to being useful for any age of life, it will reassure you.
How to prevent the risk of food allergy?
During food diversification, the risk of allergy is present since the baby introduces his body to foods that he has never been confronted with before. Food allergies can be hereditary, so you should inform your pediatrician if one of your parents has an allergy. Gradually getting your child's intestinal flora used to solid foods helps to avoid the risk of allergies, as does introducing foods one by one.
What is child-led dietary diversification (CBD)?
Child-led dietary diversification is different from traditional dietary diversification. It consists in letting the child manage his or her own food diversification. No little spoon, the child discovers the food himself and with his hands.
Unlike traditional food diversification, which starts at 4 months of age, DME can only start at 6 months of age: the child must be able to stand up straight to swallow the pieces.
To start DME, you can introduce a different fruit and vegetable each day.
Broccoli, for example, is a suitable food to start DME: easy to hold by the foot of the bunch, the broccoli floret is easily crushed against the gums.
Of course, the child must be supervised by an adult while eating. A tip to avoid accidents: give a piece bigger than the child's wrist.
The principle of DME, as the name suggests, is that it is child-led, so if your child asks for help, if he prefers to eat with a spoon, if he prefers to eat pureed food etc, don't refuse him.
Here is a suggested menu for a baby who is beginning to diversify:
In the first few weeks of food diversification, solid foods are only included at lunch, in addition to breast milk, which remains, as a reminder, the main food. At lunch and snack time, breast milk alone is enough.
Here are some ideas for dishes to get your baby started.
Carrot purée: just peel the carrots, steam them for about 20 minutes, then blend them, adding some cooking water to make a smooth, slightly liquid purée.
Green bean puree: wash and remove the stems from the green beans, steam them and mix them with a little water. Then blend them, adding a little cooking water to obtain a smooth and slightly liquid consistency.
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