Did you know that up to half of all parents say they struggle with a ‘fussy eater’? Every week I’m approached by parents struggling with family mealtimes and the challenges of feeding small people. For the most part these are happy, healthy kids with no medical problems. However, in all cases mealtimes are a battle ground or parents are just plain frustrated. Frustrated because they are serving the same foods day in and day out or because they’re often making not one but two or three separate meals. Sound familiar?
MANAGING FUSSY EATING IS ABOUT PLAYING THE LONG-GAME
It seems that ‘fussy eating’ is an ever-increasing problem in families today, my own included! The good news is that with the correct information and an openness to change your food parenting style, there is hope! When you put good feeding strategies in place you create an environment which helps your child eat a wider variety of foods, allows more enjoyable family mealtimes and reduces time spent catering for individual children. However, keep in mind, these are long term strategies and not overnight miracles. However, perseverance and consistency will pay off in the long-term, helping you to raise a happy, healthy eating adult!
IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING FOOD INTO YOUR CHILD
Before I offer advice to parents on feeding strategies or give ideas for meals and snacks I always make sure sure that they know this; It’s this; it is not your job to ‘get food into your child’. “Hang on, what? Of course, it’s a parent’s job to make sure their child eats. No, it’s not!” Feeding it is a partnership between you and your child and you each have your own set of responsibilities.
This isn’t opinion but based on the evidence-based theory called The Division of Responsibility, researched and developed by Ellyn Satter, Feeding Expert and Dietitian.
THE DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITY
When you follow the Division of Responsibility in feeding your child will become and remain capable with eating. The Division of Responsibility in Feeding (sDOR) 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.
AT EVERY FEEDING STAGE AND AGE
The division of responsibility in feeding applies at every stage in your child’s growing-up years, from infancy through the early years through to adolescence. sDOR says to feed your baby on demand, letting him determine the timing and tempo of feeding. As he develops and becomes more regular in his eating patterns, you gradually take on responsibility for when and where to feed. Most children are ready to join in with the meals-plus-snacks routine of family meals by the end of the first year or the beginning of the second year. After that, parents need to maintain the structure of family meals and sit-down snacks throughout the growing-up years. When you do your jobs with feeding, your child will do his with eating.
Your jobs with feeding are to . . .
Choose and prepare the food.
Provide regular meals and snacks.
Make eating times pleasant.
Step-by-step, show your child by example how to behave at family mealtime.
Be considerate of your child’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.
Not let your child have food or drinks (except for water) between meal and snack times.
Let your child grow into the body that is right for him.
Part of your feeding job is to trust your child to . . .
Eat the amount he needs.
Learn to eat the food you eat.
Grow predictably in the way that is right for him.
Learn to behave well at mealtime.
WE PRACTICE THIS TOO!
This is not just an approach I recommend to other parents, it’s one that I put into practice every day with my own four children. It’s a simple powerful concept yet parents can struggle to put in to practice. Many parents struggle to trust their children around food especially in our current food environment of anxiety and hyper awareness of good nutrition. On the other hand, it can be liberating to be free from micromanaging our children’s food intake. So, take a deep breathe, trust yourself and your children and give it a go. You might be amazed at the difference it makes.
Learn more about food parenting at our next ‘Managing Fussy Eating-Parent’s Masterclass’, Sat May 18th, Douglas. www.solidstart.ie for booking. It’s not just for fussy eaters!
Written By Caroline O’Connor- Registered Dietitian, mum of four and Founder of Solid Start.
Solid Start offers parents the information they need to get their families off to the best start in life with food, feeding and nutrition. They are passionate about helping you raise your own happy, healthy eater. You can visit www.solidstart.ie for more information on their Baby Weaning Class, Fussy Eating Class and Feeding Consultations. You can also follow Caroline on Instagram and Facebook