Clémence Maumené: I studied engineering in food-processing. When I had my first child, I wanted to prepare home-made recipes for him. I realized that it wasn’t as simple as that. We ask ourselves a lot of questions: when do we give this, when do we find the time to cook in our already busy days… And then as time went by, I became the “diversification referent” in my circle of friends. At the beginning, I created “Cook for baby” as a sharing blog where I presented my recipes, my batch cooking techniques. In the end, my girlfriends were not the only ones to struggle, the blog took off quickly. Now, I propose a menu for baby with all the recipes of the week in batch cooking. I also wrote a book “Cooking for baby” with a hundred recipes adapted to the food diversification. We also have a phone application.
CC: When can you start diversifying your baby’s diet?
CM: My advice is based on scientific studies and official recommendations. Today, we say that the best window is between 4 and 6 months for many reasons. This is the period when baby’s digestive maturity is taking hold. He can eat something other than milk, which in any case no longer covers all his nutritional needs. This is also a good time to limit allergies.
CC: What are the main stages of food diversification?
CM: These are just a guide. All children are different, so if you don’t fit in, don’t worry! They are divided into 4 main stages:
- Between 4 and 6 months: the time of the first meals. Baby discovers smooth textures. You can offer him pureed vegetables in a simple way. Any food family can be given. The most interesting thing is to tame the vegetables, because they are the foods that are the most likely to be rejected and the most nutritious.
- From 6-8 months: we are in the diversity. Ideally, you should introduce a maximum of taste, play with spices, aromatic herbs and food variety. From 6 months onwards, a small smooth spoonful of mixed meat can be added at lunchtime because the baby needs more iron, about 10 grams of protein per day, without the obligation of protein every day! We evolve towards less smooth textures. As soon as the baby is in a sitting position, there is less risk of choking.
- Chewing becomes established around 9-12 months: this is the period of complete textures and meals. You can introduce foods that can be chewed, such as fresh, ripe fruit, or small pasta in mashed potatoes, to add texture. This is also the time to try unmixed cereals in small dishes.
- From 12 months: baby is able to eat everything, he is getting bigger and progressing towards the parents’ plate!
CC: What are the right conditions for starting food diversification?
CM: The best is to start on weekends or vacations so that you are available. For a baby, this is a huge thing. This first experience is a beautiful moment of sharing. For years, we have treated food diversification as a medical step, when feeding is a joy. We don’t just fill our babies! Besides, we assimilate nutrients better by eating consciously, with pleasure.
CC: How do you feed a baby for the first time?
CM: In addition to having the time, I would advise putting baby in a bouncer upright or on top of you. On the first spoonfuls, there are no nourishing objectives, it is the experience above all. We don’t care if he gets dirty, it’s often a moment that we film and send to his relatives… You shouldn’t worry if he hasn’t eaten enough. If he doesn’t want the spoon, we can put him on our finger to suck. We let him play with the spoon outside of mealtime. On the first meals, no pressure, especially since babies feel it!
CC: Is it a big deal if you got confused and missed some milestones?
CM: You have to let go of your guilt! I am convinced that we do the best we can, with what we know. Sometimes I get feedback from panicked clients who tell me they didn’t do this or that with their children… Recommendations are changing. Today we say that you have to give growing-up milk until the age of three, but that wasn’t always the case… The main thing is not to force your child and to have fun.
CC: What is Baby Led Weaning?
CM: Baby-led weaning means offering your baby only finger foods and letting them feed themselves from the start (rather than spoon feeding them puréed or mashed foods). I don’t oppose it to traditional diversification. Thanks to the pieces, they can touch and discover the textures (from 6 months). Give a piece of fruit for dessert. Touching the fruit and having a spoon. The autonomy at the table is also interesting. I don’t put a label on it because the methods complement each other!
CC: What about when baby doesn’t want to try anything or doesn’t like anything, what do you do?
CM:Some children need more time. They say you have to introduce a food at least 10 times before it is accepted without forcing it. When there is real disgust, don’t hesitate to offer the food in different forms. For example, a carrot can be offered as a stick or puree. Some children need to touch the food before putting it in their mouths. If this becomes a problem, don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician. In case of an orality disorder, he can refer you to an occupational therapist and a speech therapist.
CC: What is “batch cooking”?
CM: It’s cooking all the meals of the week at once. In less than 2 hours, the parents cook ten dishes from Monday to Friday. We keep in the fridge what we eat in two days and we freeze the rest of the week. It takes time, but it’s homemade and we enjoy it all week. The most complicated part is designing the menu, that’s our added value. Having variety while optimizing the menu is what we propose on our website and in my book.
CC: In the end, what is the most important thing to keep in mind about this stage of food diversification?
CM:There can be guilt-inducing aspects with all the advices we get. You have to do this and that… Some recommendations are good, but you shouldn’t get stuck on the benchmarks. Adapting, picking what you like and adapting to your baby are essential, otherwise it is a source of stress, frustration and irritation. Keep in mind that pleasure is at the center of feeding!