The beginning of dietary diversification, i.e. the gradual introduction of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit, and proteins into the baby’s diet in addition to milk, is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) which recommends exclusive breastfeeding until this age.
In fact, depending on the child and their appetite for something other than milk, it often takes place between 4 and 6 months, with experts recommending that it should never be started earlier than 4 months, or later than 6 months.
Breastfed babies will continue to be breastfed on demand, while bottle-fed babies will have four 210 ml meals of formula for 0-6 months, then of formula for 6-12 months when the first meal without milk is introduced. This ration will gradually be reduced when vegetables and fruits are introduced. It is advisable to start with cereals, then to offer vegetables, then fruit, and finally animal protein.
Vary flour and cereals
Flour or cereals should be added to the evening and/or morning bottle (1 to 2 teaspoons). Compositions are varied. They are often mixtures of several types of flour: rice, wheat, oats, millet, corn, quinoa, etc. When the baby is breastfed exclusively, some milk can be drawn to prepare a fine semolina given with a spoon. Complex carbohydrates, better known as “slow sugars”, can also be provided in the form of bread or biscuits, or combined with vegetables.
It is usual to start with gluten-free flours for the first age group, then gradually introduce gluten from the 7th month.
Complex carbohydrates should be given in limited quantities if the child is overweight.
Vegetables in reasonable quantities
Vegetables should be started gradually, usually at lunch, by spoonfeeding. You can choose between a home made vegetable puree, or a baby food pot of vegetables of about 130 g. You can introduce your baby to the following vegetables: beetroot, leek stems, broccoli, carrots, courgettes (seeded and skinless), spinach, french beans, sweet potatoes, parsnips, pumpkins or squashes, tomatoes. Swiss chard (green and white) and endives can be used in limited quantities, in the form of young vegetables to limit the intake of fibre. Peas can only be used if they are very small. The amount of carrots should be limited if the baby is constipated. At first, limit vegetables that have a strong taste or are too rich in fibre: artichokes, aubergines, cardoons, celery, cabbage, fennel, turnips, onions, peppers, swedes, salsify, leek tops, etc.
Some guidelines to follow:
- Vegetables should preferably be steamed and not salted, either before or after cooking.
- It is best to offer only one vegetable per day (in addition to potato, which is used as a binder for the most fluid vegetables such as courgette or tomatoes) so that your child learns the particular taste of each vegetable. If you choose baby food pots, then go for “single flavours”.
- It is advisable to change vegetables every day, so that your baby can then accept new foods more easily.
- If your baby refuses a vegetable, don’t insist, and try it again another day. Sometimes you have to persevere a little when baby refuses several times (sometimes 8 to 10 times!), until the initially refused vegetable is finally accepted and then liked.
You can give the first fruit puree about 10 to 15 days after vegetables are introduced. You can make home made purees using mixed ripe, cooked fruit without added sugar, or baby jars of fruit (about 100 g).
The advice of experts:
- As with vegetables and for the same reasons, give only one fruit per day and change the fruit every day.
- All fruits can be offered, including kiwi, soft fruit and exotic fruits.
- Similarly, if your baby refuses fruit, try again another day, never force, and don’t be discouraged if your baby takes a while to accept and like it.
10 to 15 days after the first fruit puree, you can start a complete meal with a spoon at lunchtime, with meat, fish, or even egg, at a rate of 10 g (about 2 teaspoons, or ¼ of egg).
And as part of a vegetarian diet?
Meat and fish should be replaced by dairy products (then by cheese in the next stage) and eggs.
What is Baby-led weaning (BLW)?
Baby-led weaning, or BLW, which is becoming increasingly popular, begins at 6 months at the earliest with only solid or soft food with a variety of textures and shapes. The baby will grab it with his hands to feed himself independently. To learn more about this subject, we invite you to read the book : Bébé mange tout seul (Christine Zalejski, Larousse editions).