Are you wondering about introducing solids to your baby’s diet? Do you want to make sure your child will grow up eating (and loving) fruits and veggies, with a low risk for developing food allergies?
This article is all about how French parents start teaching their children to love healthy whole foods. The information is taken from French government standards and recommendations, but also from our own pediatrician.
Disclaimer: The information on my blog is not intended as medical advice. As always, before modifying anything in your baby’s diet, please consult with a doctor.
Now, on to the French wisdom! Grab a coffee with me, and let’s meal plan together!
When and how to introduce solids to your baby
When we talk about introducing solids, we are basically talking about food in pureed form. You might not normally think of these as “solid,” but we call them solids because they are simply more solid than milk.
Start between the ages of 4- to 6 months
You’ll mostly hear that you should introduce solids starting at 6 months. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.
My daughter’s pediatrician, Dr. P, explained to me that the recommendation of introducing solids at 6 months is basically a worldwide standard, but this means it has to include underdeveloped countries where the risk of food contamination is higher.
In these areas, it is preferable to wait until the stomach and intestines are a little more fully developed before introducing solids to your baby in order to better cope with food poisoning.
Dr. P also explained that as a medical professional, he was privy to the latest research in infant dietary regimens. He said that scientists know today that the risk of developing food allergies is lower in adults who began eating solids at 4 months of age, as opposed to starting at 6 months of age.
Dr. P said the best way to combat the risk of developing food allergies as an adult was to introduce as many different solid foods as possible between the ages of 4 and 6 months. That means that at age 6 months, the benefits of this method already start to decline.
He advised me to expose my daughter C to anything and everything, in appropriate amounts, and in appropriate textures, when she turned 4 months old.
Conversely, avoiding feeding her common food allergens—such as eggs, peanuts, and gluten—would do nothing to prevent the development of allergies later on, and may even support the development of such allergies since they were not introduced to her digestive system during the “magical” window of 4- to 6 months.
As a bonus, introducing as many different solids as possible would help C to develop a wide palate and to accept these foods later on. Score!
Use baby-led weaning
With baby-led weaning, you observe your baby’s cues to guide you in introducing solids. Babies will naturally be curious about what’s on your plate. This natural curiosity will be your ally in getting your child to eat a healthy balanced diet someday.
Think about what foods you would like your child to grow up eating and loving. Probably a good mix of fruits and vegetables, healthy grains, and lean meats, right?
Then take a hard look at your own diet. If you’re relying on frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and pasta, you are severely limiting your child’s exposure to healthy whole foods.
To be honest, my diet hasn’t always been the best. Papa and I subsisted on too many processed foods, fried foods, and ready-made meals when I began introducing C to solids. La galère.
I quickly realized the cognitive dissonance I was creating for myself. As a parent, I need to lead by example. If I want C to want and like to eat healthy foods, I need to show her that I want and like to eat healthy foods. I got real about my diet and start eating better for her.
Well, that was a bit of a tangent, but it was an important one. I already did a comprehensive article about how to use baby-led weaning to your advantage, so feel free to read that next.
The last thing I want to say about the topic here is that while it is important to have as wide a variety of whole foods as possible when introducing solids, please do not try to pressure your baby to eat anything in the name of avoiding a later food allergy, if your baby is showing obvious revulsion to the said food. It won’t work, and it’s better to try again later.
Children’s palates change over time. If your baby or infant won’t eat broccoli, for example, try to remain neutral. Don’t force it, don’t act disappointed, and try again later—perhaps after letting your baby see that broccoli is on your own plate.
Introducing solids to your 4-month-old baby
At 4 months old, your baby doesn’t need breakfast or dinner—just lunch and snack to start. Remember, you are adding meals into their diet of milk, not replacing feedings with solids.
Try to feed at least ½ a jar of vegetable puree to your baby. This will amount to about 60 grams.
If you are making your baby’s food from scratch, go for the right proportions: 2/3 vegetables for 1/3 starch (such as potato or wheat semolina) plus 1 tablespoon of fats such as vegetable oil or butter. Puree it all together for a perfectly smooth texture that is easy to swallow.
Finish with breast milk or formula.
Try to feed at least ½ a jar of fruit puree to your baby. This will amount to about 60 grams.
If you are making your baby’s food from scratch, either cook the fruit to obtain a puree texture or choose very soft, ripe fruit and mash carefully. Don’t add any sugar!
Finish with breast milk or formula.
Start with veggies. In France, we begin by introducing vegetables to maximize the chances that our babies will come to enjoy them. Starting with fruits or relying on too great a proportion of starch will teach our babies to come to expect these highly addictive flavors, and reduce their chances of liking vegetables which are admittedly less seductive to our palates.
Open the meal with solids. Similarly, we start with the solids in the meal. Then the breast milk or formula is given after. This again is to harness the power of our babies’ hunger and to maximize the chances of them eating the solids. Were we to give the milk first, our babies might not be hungry enough to want the solids.
Measuring amounts. I’m someone who likes to have exact measurements. But I’m an American, so when you tell me that I need to have about 60 grams of puree, I don’t know what the heck that means. So I went to the store and bought vegetable puree, for babies, in glass jars. Then I used and reused these glass jars for my homemade purees.
Try very small spoonfuls and go slowly. Give your baby time to taste and savor! This is just as much a process of discovery as it is nourishment.
Use any vegetables you want (except what we call legumes or beans in American English) and any fruits you want.
Name that taste. Instead of serving a mixture of different pureed fruits or veggies, stick with one at a time and tell your child this is x. Put a name on the taste so your baby can begin to associate words with tastes as well as to distinguish between different flavors.
Change it up. Offer a different vegetable and fruit each day.
Do not add any salt or sugar.
Introducing more solids to your 5-month-old baby
At 5 months, you can double the meals to include breakfast and dinner. Again, maintain your usual feedings of milk and add these meals accordingly.
Breast milk or formula. That’s all that’s needed for this age at breakfast.
1 jar of vegetable puree containing animal protein such as meat or fish (if you are vegetarian or vegan, please ask your family doctor how to modify).
If you are making your baby’s food from scratch, remember the right proportions: 2/3 vegetables for 1/3 starch, plus 1 tablespoon of fats. Then add animal protein: about 10 grams of meat or fish, or ¼ of a cooked egg (whites and yolk). Puree it all together for a perfectly smooth texture that is easy to swallow. 1 jar equals about 125 grams.
Finish with 1 dairy item: breast milk, formula, a jar of yogurt, some cottage cheese, a bit of cream cheese, etc. Go for 1 jar’s worth, which is about 120 milliliters.
1 jar of fruit puree (can be cooked or very ripe, no added sugar).
1 dairy item like above.
1 jar of vegetable puree as above.
1 dairy item like above.
Remember, babies need and love routine. Try to stick to set hours for each meal. French kids generally have breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, snack at 4, and dinner at 8. I modified this slightly for my daughter because her nights were long, but my goal was to have the same amount of time in between each meal. You can see that the French schedule allows 4 hours in between each meal, and I think I did 3. Doing this will quickly help to regulate your baby’s digestion. As a bonus, diapering (or not) becomes a bit more predictable…
You can give your baby plain water from a bottle or sippy cup, in addition to the usual feedings of milk, but no other drink.
Still do not add any salt or sugar (I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s something to live by).
Still use any vegetables you want (except what we call legumes or beans in American English) and any fruits you want.
When will your baby eat like an adult?
All this pureeing can be a lot of work. The measurements too drove me dizzy in the beginning. I was (and still am) so eager for C to be able to eat everything like an adult.
The digestive tract takes time to develop, and we need to expose our babies to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to avoid food allergies and to develop their curiosity about and appreciation for healthy whole foods.
In addition, the more teeth your baby gets, the more textures you can safely explore. It will take time, but eventually your baby will be eating just like you do and you won’t have to prepare anything extra or different.
Bon appétit !
Hopefully you found it interesting to learn how we in France introduce solids! Introduce as many different flavors you can during the ages of 4- to 6 months, and concentrate on building a love for fruits and veggies.
For further reading about introducing solids to your baby, I would highly recommend you check out this post:
How does your country recommend introducing solids? Do you have more of a focus on rice and grains? Are you interested in seeing an article about what babies 6 months and over eat in France? Let me know!
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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