Teaching babies to eat by working on their autonomy, motor skills and self-confidence: this is what interests parents, more and more of whom are adopting the DME, an original method of food diversification. How’s it going ? What foods to start with? Explanations from a nurse, EMR trainer.
Known and practiced for twenty years in Anglo-Saxon countries, DME or child-led food diversification simply designates a method of food diversification where the child learns to eat alone, independently.
“In other words, the moment when he stops drinking only milk and starts eating other foods that he puts in his mouth,” explains Aurélie Mantault, nurse and EMR trainer. A method that therefore works on the baby’s autonomy in addition to the discovery of tastes.
This dual approach is increasingly emulated by parents, midwives, pediatricians and child nurses. We forget the traditional very smooth purées, bowls and spoons in favor of large melting pieces that the child can take with his hands, fiddle with, smell and put in his mouth. A great moment of discovery.
The child eats according to his appetite
“It works on his coordination and fine motor skills. If he manages, around 10 months, to put a spoon in his mouth, later, he will be more skilled in writing, cutting…”, indicates the specialist. Another advantage: “He eats according to his appetite. There is no quantity to weigh or “a spoonful for dad, a spoonful for mom…”. This allows the child to be more listening to his feelings of hunger and satiety.
Finally, there are not two meals to prepare and two services, everyone eats together at the table. You just need pieces of the right size and texture. The best way for a baby to learn is to see his parents do it, to imitate them. Little by little, he will feed like a big one (in other words without putting it everywhere).
There are no more risks than with traditional diversification
As you will have understood, do not be afraid that the child will dirty his clothes, get it in his hair and repaint the high chair. “You have to be available, concedes Aurélie Mantault. I recommend having a tablecloth on the floor under the high chair and using a little blouse.”
The antigaspis are also likely to wince: “We can recover the pieces, crush them and slip them into pancakes, muffins…” Finally, the great fear of parents is suffocation: “Studies show that there is no more risk than with traditional diversification. The little ones have a very developed gag reflex, also called “gag reflex”.. If a piece that is too big gets to the back of the tongue, they will gag and spit it out,” explains the expert. Rather reassuring.
The basic rules for starting the DME
Note, however, that the DME is not for everyone. You have to be convinced of the benefits of the method to adopt it serenely. And there are some pre-requisites: To begin, the child must be at least 6 months old, able to sit in a high chair, know how to turn their head and bring food to their mouth.
Should I give him his milk before or after? “Before, if he is angry or has a big appetite, if not, after,” says the specialist.
And for the pieces? “You start with small glue-stick sized portions of a melty texture, which you can crush between your tongue and your gums.” At this age, babies have very few or no teeth. As soon as you feel that it is getting better at catching the pieces, you can reduce the size.
Finally, remember that it is important to always stay next to him and reassure him in case of “gag reflex”. More and more healthcare professionals (dietician, nurse, midwife, etc.) are offering workshops to help you get started with EMR.
What foods to start with?
- Cooked carrot stick
- Cooked cauliflower floret
- big strawberry
- melon stick
- Half apricot
- cooked meatball
- Cooked asparagus
- Half kiwi
- banana stick
- Crunchy half toast
- Cooked fish ball
- Cooked beetroot stick
- Avocado Quarter
>> Prohibited up to 4 years old : Anything hard, small and round. Oily fruits (peanuts, hazelnuts), hard candies, cherry tomatoes, grapes, popcorn, slices of sausage and salad (which sticks to the palate).
Our expert: Aurélie Mantault, nurse, EMR trainer, author of The DME, the complete guide to child-led diversification (ed. Hachette)
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