Do you have children? Starting solids soon? Have a fussy eater? Then you will want to know about the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.
It applies to children of any age—from baby through to adolescents—and can make a world of difference to meal times.
What is the Division of Responsibility in Feeding?
Developed by Ellyn Satter, the Division of Responsibility in Feeding "encourages you to take leadership with the what, when, and where of feeding and let your child determine how much and whether to eat of what you provide."
That means your job is to choose and prepare the food, provide regular meal and snack times, disallow grazing of food and provide meal times that are pleasant and involve the whole family (whenever possible).
Your child's job is then to eat the amount he/she wants and learn to eat the food the whole family eats. This means no forcing a child to finish what's on their plate, or giving in to requests for snacks after meal times are over (which can be a little tricky to start with!)
This is not an overnight solution to fussy eating but I can assure you, it does work!
How does it work?
For our family, this means we have breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. We eat together as a family for breakfast and dinner, and always sit at the dinner table for meals if we are at home.
These are the only times food is on offer. If someone is hungry they have to wait until the next meal time for food (which is usually only an hour away anyway!) I choose the foods for these meals and my children decide if and how much of those foods they will eat.
There's no pressure to eat anything, and my children are encouraged to listen to their own bodily cues for hunger and fullness.
While it can take some adjusting, this approach to eating certainly gets results.
What does it look like in action?
Just this week I was peeling a mandarin at afternoon tea time. I was going to eat it myself but said to Mr 3, "do you want some of this as well?" To my great and utter surprise, Mr 6 says, "yeah, I'll have some." I almost fell off my chair. Mr 6 has not so much as touched a mandarin since he was a baby. I quickly handed over the fruit and he ate the whole thing, even requesting some for his lunchbox the next day.
That might not seem like much, but to me this was a great success and something that tends to happen when you take the pressure off eating certain foods.
Mr 6 is a very fussy eater and currently only eats watermelon, grapes and strawberries when it comes to fruit. We always offer him a choice when it comes to meal times (from a selection that I decide though. Do you want grapes or strawberries? Do you want kiwi fruit or watermelon?) but he generally stays within his "safe foods" which is perfectly fine. If I'd pressured him into eating a mandarin he never would've tried it.
Now he might not like it again tomorrow, but it's still a win. He ate a mandarin and he now knows what that's like. Maybe next week or next month he'll want another one.
What does it all mean?
What it all means is that we need to do our job in feeding our children, but we also need to let our children do their job as well. When we allow them control over their eating, they grow up to become more intuitive eaters. They then become adults who have a greater understanding of how much food their body needs to grow and be healthy.
Regular exposure to foods is what gets children interested in tasting them. If the family meals contains vegetables then these vegetables go on the children's plates – even if I think they won't eat them. I don't assume, but allow them to make their own choice when it comes time to eat.
You'd be amazed at the amount of times children will pick up a piece of broccoli or mushroom and take a little nibble if there's been no pressure to eat it.
If you need help with a fussy eater, or you're about to start on the solids journey with your baby, you can download this handy PDF.