Here are two important things you need to know about this crucial learning process.
“The transition from something simple — milk — to a diversified diet is something that worries parents, who wonder if they are doing the right thing,” says dietitian and nutritionist Myriam Alexis. Diversification is an important moment. Little by little, at their own pace, babies discover new tastes and textures.
Trust your baby
Stefan Kleintjes, a dietitian specialized in the nutrition of children from 0 to 4 years old, recommends that parents let their child choose his or her own rhythm: “The baby naturally discovers its own way of eating, when he or she is ready.” The dietitian rejects the idea that there is “one” right way to do it. “We think we should feed the baby at such and such a time, in such and such proportions. Sometimes parents are very insistent that the child finish their plate. Babies know exactly what to eat and when to stop.” So it’s important to trust your child, to offer them reasonable amounts and (why not?) to let them eat as they wish.
Child-directed diversification (CDD) ensures that once swallowing has been acquired, the child is able to help himself or herself to whatever he or she wants. With their hands, if they can. Parents should not be overly concerned about the baby making a mess. Sitting at the table with others, the baby observes, imitates and discovers flavors it likes.Kleintjes insists that “trust” is at the heart of the process. Parents Don’t need to have control over how much the child eats, or whether he or she has eaten “everything on their plate.”
Play with textures and ingredients
For Myriam Alexis, it is also essential to support children in their sensory discoveries. “You can play around with textures and ingredients. Do not hesitate to use garlic, onion, spices …” The nutritionist, who leads workshops with children, says that a 14-month-old baby who didn’t eat any fruit tasted pineapple, banana, apple, and grapes during a small cooking class with older children. “We would make fruit pizzas. The playful and attractive appearance, the different context, attracted him. There was no pressure, so he let himself be tempted. His nanny couldn’t believe it!”
And if the child doesn’t like celery and sweet potato soup, it shouldn’t call into question the “nurturing ability” of his well-meaning mother. “It can be unbearable for a mother to fail at feeding her child,” says Alexis. “Dads are often able to play down conflicts or refusals to eat!” Learning to let go and trust is therefore crucial when it comes to diversification. With flexibility, parents will be able to adapt to their child’s rhythm, to her tastes, to “let the child diversify,” says Myriam Alexis.