To send your success stories, please email us.
I was very fortunate to be introduced to Child of Mine when my daughter was an infant. I devoured every word of the book and your theory resonated with me on many levels. We’ve been following the Satter Philosophy since introducing solids to my oldest. There were times during her picky toddler years that I would find myself flirting with crossing the lines on DOR, but I would always pull myself (and my husband) back. Trusting your wisdom…waiting patiently for her eating competence to emerge.
My oldest is now 6 ½ and has reached the stage where she is trying all sorts of new foods! Every time I turn around she is trying a new food! The same food that has been on the family table for the past five years that she always quietly rejected, she now samples and enjoys! You promised me this would happen and IT IS!! She eats a wide variety of food including numerous fruits and vegetables and is always satisfied from the family table. I want to jump for joy and shout from the rooftops! (But, of course, I don’t. I only quietly celebrate with my hubby when she’s not around!)
My younger daughters are 5 and 3 and still on the picky side. But now, I don’t have just your promise to rely on, I have my own living proof…sitting right across the table from them!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Juan, age 4½ years, weighed over 100 pounds. He was so heavy that he was being given an escort on the Head Start bus for fear he would hurt himself! Juan had been an obese toddler, and for the last three years his family had been trying to limit his food intake. Both at home and at Head Start, Juan hung around the kitchen begging for food. At Head Start, where children are allowed to eat as much as they want, Juan bent over his plate and rapidly shoveled in two or three servings.
I advised both Juan’s mother and the Head Start teachers to reassure Juan that he could eat as much as he wanted at meal and snack time—and to deliver on that promise. No one was to try to restrict him, either directly or indirectly. As I explained to them all, Juan ate too much because he was afraid of going hungry. I taught them the division of responsibility and emphasized the importance of providing plenty of food to fill everyone up. They all worried that Juan’s eating would get even worse, but I didn’t. I have used Satter’s approach with overweight children many times in the last 10 years. I know children’s eating settles down when they trust they will get enough to eat.
Recently, I ate lunch with Juan. His eating has totally changed. He calmly served himself, looked his food over carefully and paid attention as he slowly ate. Before, Juan would rather eat than play. Now, when some of the other children finished and got up to play, Juan studied the food left on his plate, looked toward the play area and then back at his plate. Then he got up, threw away the remaining food, and went to play!
Juan is slimming down. His activity has changed as well. Before, he seemed reluctant to participate. Now that he is no longer food preoccupied, he is as active as the other children. He became so active outside he earned the right to ride the bus on his own. He was always active outside, but indoors he seemed.
Best of all, Juan’s parents and his teachers trust that he will eat the amount that is right for him.
Edie Applegate, RD, MSW
Head Start Nutrition Consultant
Dear Mrs Satter,
First, I want to say I love what you do! I am a pediatric dietitian (or was until 2 years ago when I decided to stay home with my kids.) I heard you speak once at a meeting and it was such a privilege. I have loved your work since first being introduced to it in college. Having had my own battles with body acceptance and disordered eating patterns (as did my mother), everything you said made so much sense and I was determined to use all of your practices on my children. Then, 12 years ago, I became a parent. . .
Gabe is the oldest of my four children. From the beginning he had feeding "issues". He had severe reflux and had a difficult time gaining weight. I breastfed him, but he was a difficult eater. He didn't seem to like to be touched, so breastfeeding was challenging. At about one month of age I actually broke down and tried to give him a bottle, but he refused. Since he wasn't gaining weight it was suggested to me that offer him the breast every 2 hours - awake or asleep. First time, hormonal parent that I was I went along with this. I would set the timer from the time I started nursing for two hours - so awake or asleep I would offer him the breast. To make this harder - he was a slow feeder - sometimes being attached for an hour a feed.
As Gabe progressed and we started cereal we found Gabe to have a strong gag reflex. He never outgrew the reflux (even now at 12), and still also has a strong gag reflex. He was not fond of the transition from breast-milk to solid foods. I tried not to push, offered and if he just gagged and spit it out or refused it I didn't make a big deal and we went on. He was gaining weight fine at this point so I wasn't worried. He was slowly progressing to foods with more texture while still nursing.
At 18 months he was just starting mushed up table foods. Soft things like cottage cheese or cut up noodles were fine. I saw he was somewhat behind on what textures he accepted but I didn't push. He was still nursing at this point. Then, Gabe caught strep throat and the croup at the same time. When he got better he regressed to only breast milk and liquids. I was pregnant with my second child at this time - so at a point where I should have been weaning him I found I was full time nursing him - and I was exhausted by it. Over the next six months Gabe growth grid flat lined. He ended up being a "chubby" baby, so the doctor wasn't worried when he lost weight from 12 months to 24 months. Nor was the doctor worried when he didn't gain any height in that time as well. I was in a panic at that point for I knew something was wrong.
At 24 months Gabe would only ingest liquids and step two babyfoods. Anything with more texture than that he would gag on. The doctor told us to "Stop coddling him and make him eat". We started blenderizing table foods in hopes he would eat them - he refused. At that point all dietitian training went out the window and we became desperate - as we watched our child become thinner and thinner every day. I will admit we weren't proud of some of the things we tried over the next year. Doctors continued to insist that there was nothing wrong with him, it was our parenting skills and we needed to be firmer with him. During that time we had our second child, a girl. The moment she was born we realized that she was very different from Gabe. . . and as she grew over the next few months both my husband and I came to the realization that there was either something very wrong with her or there was something very wrong with Gabe. . . .
At three years and one month Gabe was diagnosed with high functioning autism. Things finally made sense as far as his texture and eating issues. It also made sense as to why he was so food selective and such a self limiter of foods. Gabe was also diagnosed with a milk allergy and a gluten sensitivity - so we had to eliminate those proteins from his diet. I was afraid to do that for Gabe was already so thin that I feared he would wither away once we changed his diet. To my pleasure the effect was the opposite and for the first time in two years he started gaining weight and height again.
It was at that point where you spoke at a conference that I had to go to for work. Like I said, I had always believed in your work, and taught your work in my practice, but somehow I figured for my son it wouldn't work. With his allergies/sensitivities and his sensory issues that the DOR wouldn't work. I even asked you about how to deal with kids with SID and you said follow the DOR. That night I went home and told my husband "Lets give this a try. We are doing this with our daughter so lets just see where it goes."
In the beginning I did always try to make something on the table I knew he would like. . . applesauce, his bread and "butter", something that would go along with the meal but not be making him his own meal. He fought it at times, but compared to the begging and pleading we did during that year he wouldn't eat this was easy. We went back to doing the DOR when Gabe was 3, and my oldest daughter was 1. Now Gabe is 12, my oldest daughter is 10, and my twins are 6 (one of which also has a form of high functioning autism).
Gabe will now eat what I put on the table. He is still a "picky" eater and may not like the meal on the table, but he knows it is this or nothing. He was able to go off the gluten free, milk free diet about 2 years ago and he gained some weight after that - but I didn't worry. We did our job and provided him with healthy foods and we try to keep the family active - he was just so excited to try things like Doritos and real mac n cheese that he ate his fill. He did eventually realize though that since he no longer has problems with these foods that he will be able to eat them whenever they are at a meal/snack. He is now actually thinning out as he is hitting a height spurt. I had doctors try to talk to me about limiting his food intake when he gained that weight two years ago - but I pretty much told them I didn't want to hear it. He is now at the 85%ile for BMI and I am perfectly happy with that. Gabe is - in my opinion - a great success story. I never thought he would be where he is now.
As for my girls - who have been raised with this - they are awesome eaters. My oldest daughter will try anything - and I do mean ANYTHING! My twins aren't as adventurous as my 10 year old, but they are not picky eaters either. They are great eaters - even the twin with the form of autism. I just went with it and never waivered on the rules - even at times where it seemed like she was eating too much (she went the opposite way as Gabe and she loved having things in her mouth and loved eating) - I just went with it. There were times where her weight/length were above the 95%-ile and doctors wanted me to put her on a "diet". I ignored them and just let her love eating. She is now also at the 75%-ile for BMI - and again - I am very happy with that.
Thank you for everything you do. Thank you for fighting to get people in the healthcare industry to realize that children can be healthy at any weight! Just wanted to pass this info on to you.
~ A Parent
I wish I was given the Division of Responsibility in its true form when my son first showed issues with food. We were repeatedly told about DOR, but it was explained this way: ‘You cook the food, and if the child doesn't eat, don't worry, he won't starve.’ ‘I say, give him what you eat, if he doesn’t eat it, he doesn’t eat anything at all till the next meal. No meal, no snacks.’ ‘He won’t starve. When he’s hungry, he’ll eat.’ My husband and I were terrified, almost as terrified as my son was, faced with the fear of possibly choking on food, yet again. He was literally afraid food would kill him, and I worried that his food avoidance would have the same effect. Doctors told us he would grow out of this “phase”. Every year, I was told it was temporary, to just be patient and to give him a multivitamin. As the years went on, we just accepted that Ty’s diet would always revolve around about a dozen foods.
I blog about my son’s challenges with food and through some research, I was directed to Ellyn Satter. When the DoR was properly explained to me, I was outraged that such practical and useful advice was being twisted into force, pressure and sometimes, abuse. Parents need this knowledge. I needed this information years ago!
Once our family put Ellyn Satter’s original version of the Division of Responsibility into practice, we began to notice a dramatic change in Ty. He started to get curious. He didn’t mind seeing or smelling food that he wasn’t comfortable eating. Some of it he would even put on his plate on the condition that he was not expected to eat it. He will indicate that he doesn’t want a serving with a very calm and respectful, “No thanks” instead of the frightened, wailing dash for safety that used to happen. I frequently get asked if he eats anything new. The venture into food groups unknown is a goal too far away for us to comprehend at the moment. What is nothing short of miraculous, however, is hearing a child with a phobia of food, ask what I’m cooking, and to remark about how good it smells, or take a green pepper ring and turn it into glasses or a mustache. When he feels ready, he will try new foods, usually exploring around what he already considers safe. What is most rewarding for everyone in this family, for the first time in years, there is something better than fear on our table. We have hope. ~ Skye
Understanding the division of responsibility in feeding lets me make sense of my past. Now that I understand, I can help other parents (I am a health professional) avoid the anguish I went through. From the time he was a baby, my son Owen's well checks were all the same. "He's too chubby. His weight is at the 95th percentile. What are you feeding him?" his pediatrician would ask.
I breastfed Owen for 5 months, but even though I hid the truth about the rest, the doctor still said, too much. Owen ate a lot. I couldn't feed him fast enough. He fussed and fussed as I rushed around the kitchen getting his food ready, and then fussed after each mouthful. He had to have his snacks or he got crabby. His eating, his size, and his being the baby of the family gave me great anxiety because my sister, also the baby of the family, is morbidly obese. Her weight had been a huge family issue when I was growing up, and I was so afraid Owen would have her problems!
Looking back, I suspect it was food restriction that made her so fat. Even though it was hard at the time, I am happy to say that I did not restrict Owen. From age 3 years on, Owen's new pediatrician wasn't concerned about his weight, so I was honest with him about what Owen ate. But I still worried. Truth be told, I worried for years. I kept track of what he ate and got upset when my husband let him have a lot of meats and carbohydrates and didn't push the vegetables like I wanted him to. I watched carefully to make sure Owen didn't sneak and hoard food like my sister did. Now at age 23, and a lean 6'3" tall, Owen still has a big appetite and gets crabby when he is hungry. When he comes home my food budget goes way up. It seems that all the things I worried about, his big appetite and the way he loved to eat, were just natural for him. Despite all of the pressure I felt to get Owen to eat and weigh less, I resisted. Even though it was hard on me, I did the right thing, and the story has a happy ending! ~ Dorothy
Gemma is nearly 5 and she's still a good eater, though that's not to say she eats everything I give her. Some days she eats lots, and some days not. Some days she doesn't like things she previously enjoyed (like last night with crab), and some days she comes back to something I thought was lost forever (like last week with guacamole). But because I'm always providing good food (well, *almost* always!), I don't worry about how much she eats. Ellyn's philosophy is a true blessing when it comes to Gemma because she's headstrong and loves to be in charge. I can't imagine the kind of battles we'd be having at the table if I didn't understand about the division of responsibility. ~ Nancy
Your books Child of Mine: Feeding with Love & Good Sense and Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family have been absolutely inspirational to me as I have made the transition from corporate attorney (being fed 3 meals a day by a very good corporate cafeteria) to stay-at-home-mother. Secrets became a fixture on my kitchen counter: An important guide as I learned to manage food for my family. Child of Mine gave me a great set of principles to follow in approaching the vagaries of feeding first one and then another toddler and preschooler. Although some days are better than others, I have held onto your nuggets of wisdom, including ''a toddler can smell an agenda a mile away'' and ''being motivated comes with the territory of being a child.'' Perhaps most helpful was your encouragement to do my job,and not waste my time trying to do my sons' jobs, too! I have recommended your books to all of the mothers I know (including my own mother, who lives alone and faces the challenges of how to feed a rather small family). Everyone who has read them has thanked me! ~ Laurel
God bless you for the smarts you are bringing to the family table. I am an RD too, and thought I was so smart until I had a baby. I can pinpoint the day at 11 months old she stopped trusting new foods after throwing up the first time. I would get so irrationally angry that she wasn't eating what I gave her any more. Many a dinner for her consisted of fruit, crackers, and milk (and really, that ain't that bad). I persevered and kept offering her foods to only toss them away or save for the next meal. One day at age 3 (more than 2 years later) I watched her eat a raw green bean for the first time. Then she ate peas. (Previously her only vegetable was pizza sauce). In the last MONTH she has eaten raw carrots, edamame, white and brown rice, a hamburger, blueberries (first time since 11 months - it was one of the foods she threw up), a grape tomato (spit out, but she tried it), red and green peppers, and potatoes. I think the key was, I recognized the division of responsibility and tried my hardest to follow your advice. I watch my friends with tots miserably fail at this though I tell them about your books. Watching them was just as much of an education! In short, thank you and keep up the great work. We parents of young'uns take on the world for them, but in the area of eating we don't need to, and I for one appreciate that reminder. ~ Suzanne
I remember being frightened when my second daughter grew into a chubby, double-chinned baby. She loved to eat, and was purely joyful at mealtimes. A stranger first confronted me about her size when she was 6 months old, all dressed up and standing in line to have her picture taken. The line was long, she became hungry and fussy and I said, ''don't worry darling, you'll get to eat soon.'' The woman behind said ''looks like she could go a long time without eating.'' As I walked away I felt guilty and angry. How could someone say something like that, and more than that, how could I have let my beautiful baby get so fat?
I found How to Get your Child to Eat...but Not Too Much when my daughter was about 5 years old and had somehow become a picky eater. I suspect it had something to do with my old eating issues, thinking that I was fat, dieting as a teenager, taking diet pills and the like. I bent over backwards so far to avoid eating struggles with her that I was making special foods and catering to her. I consciously put the division of responsibility plan into action. We did have family dinners already, but I stopped making her special food and insisting she had to eat. I let her choose what she did or didn't eat. Over a period of 6 months she went from eating bread and milk to eating almost everything that was on the table. In fact, one night after dinner she looked down at her plate and said ''I've eaten a whole plate of food.''
As she got older, her weight was always at the 90th to 95th percentile. When she was active and played sports (soccer mostly), she slimmed down. When she stopped, she gained weight. I threw away the bathroom scale, and never talked about her weight. When she was in high school, she said she didn't have any idea of what she weighed. She was 5"4 and I would guess she weighed between 140 and 150 pounds most of the time. She was always larger than her friends but never felt that she was overweight. We did have some tearful moments in dressing rooms when she was trying to fit into the ''typical teenager'' clothes. Today, she is 21, beautiful, with healthy attitudes about foods, her body and her life. She recently dropped 15 pounds as a consequence of a change in her habits. She was busy, working, dancing, going to college and decided to stop drinking soda and eating fast food,not because she was fat but because they didn't make her feel good.
We always stressed meals, having snacks, and eating as much as she was hungry for. My youngest sister used to love to come and visit us because we had so much fun at family dinners. I know for sure that if I had tried to restrict her, limit her foods, or even talk to her about being fat or overweight, I could have spoiled all that and caused her lasting damage. By all means, please share our story with other parents. Tell them that it does take courage to stay the course. There were many times that I worried my daughter would grow up to have food issues and to be fat and unhappy. But it turned out well. Even my husband said a few years ago, the best thing you did was throw away the scale. ~ Pat
Your advice has worked wonderfully! The little lady who would only eat Cheerios & bread is now eager to eat all kinds of baby food, cereal and finger food. It's amazing. There is so much more time to play now, she seems happier and I'm definitely more relaxed. Meals are fun now and there's lots of smiling. Thank you, thank you. I'd call it total success! ~ Amy
My daughter weighed 9 lb 11 ounces at birth and has always loved to eat. At about 14 months, my daughter was starting to ask for food all day long. As a doctor, I had given advice to parents (poor advice!) and I didn't know how to deal with feeding my own daughter. I didn't want her to be obsessed with food like some restricted kids I have seen. I was worried about her being ''heavy'' with the constant comments from family and strangers about her size (the delivery room nurses called her ''chunky monkey!'') In my practice I have treated teenagers with eating disorders, and adults with more problems related to obesity than I can count.
I wasn't sure how to handle a kid with a hearty appetite without being too regulating, or too lax. I read Child of Mine, and it was an epiphany. I realized that I was trying to control my daughter's eating and it was making her afraid she wouldn't get enough to eat. After following the simple message in the book,to do my jobs with feeding and let my daughter do hers, I noticed much less panhandling, and more importantly, less anxiety on my part. I need to trust my daughter, and trust that she will get what she needs. She's over the 100th % for both height and weight. She has such a lovely, funny spirit. She's chatty and active, and not worrying about food or her size, or things I can't control, has made every day more joyful. Things are going great now. We sit and eat meals together, have regular snacks, I let her eat as much as she wants at those times, and she prefers fruit to cookies! I talk about your book all the time. I can't believe how poorly health care professionals are trained in this matter. I wish this book was required reading for all medical students who will deal with children, and parents-to-be. ~ Grateful Doctor in the Midwest
UPDATE Our daughter is almost 2 now, and is starting to slim down as most cherubic babies do. From being off the charts, her height and weight have dropped down to the 95th percentile. I have to protect us from interference, however, because standard recommendations would diagnose her as overweight and newer guidelines would even suggest lab work! Instead, I have been feeding her well and letting her get the body that is right for her, and we're doing great. It takes a lot of planning with meals and snacks, but it's worth it. As a toddler, she's gotten a little more sensitive about textures and trying new foods, but we have faith that she will learn to enjoy the foods we do. She loves fruit, and eats an adequate variety of veggies, but honestly she'd eat ice cream and mac-n-cheese every meal if we offered it to her! To me, that is a toddler, not a weight issue. I still get anxious occasionally when she eats a very large meal, or asks for a third oatmeal cookie, but I am recognizing it's my problem, not hers, and it always seems to even out. ~ Grateful Doctor in the Midwest
I am amazed! We started dividing the responsibilities of eating as suggested, and I am already starting to see a difference! I offered soup, pasta, bread, and salad at lunch today, and my 2.5 year old turned down the soup until she saw me eating it, then she said "I need soup" and proceeded to eat a hearty bowl of it! Thank you for providing such clear guidelines and a framework for parents. We have two girls who are generally good eaters (eat a variety of foods, no allergies) but the "panhandling" was becoming a huge issue. I feel like this is a step in the right direction. Thank you again, ~ Parent
The Kid's Menu: Solid Foods, Fluid Rules
For someone who loves food, could there be a more exciting moment than giving her baby that first spoonful of the real thing? I had dreamed of it before my son was born, and I had countless fantasies of the event in anticipation: Franklin in his high chair looking excited; me with a lovely little bowl of mashed sweet potato, or pink applesauce, or something else gem-colored; and him clapping his hands and smacking his lips, looking eagerly for the next bite. I so wanted to get the moment right, I even researched which book to use for research. And after reading Ellyn Satter's classic, Child of Mine, I thought that I knew everything there was to know,certainly, in my warm, encouraging-but-not-pushy presence, my baby would be just beside himself with joy to eat from that tiny spoon.
Satter's philosophy is to only put a spoonful of food in the baby's mouth when he appears to be a willing participant,making eye contact with the feeder, or at least the spoon, and opening his mouth,rather than trying to cajole or fool him into eating the way most of us probably did as infants, with airplane spoons and momentarily open mouths jammed with pured peas. Satter's method theoretically encourages a healthy relationship with eating: The child is allowed to eat until satisfied, and then allowed to stop, and doesn't have to take any mouthfuls he doesn't want, so no battles between parent and child can sabotage everyone's enjoyment at the table. It sounded wonderful. If you are feeding a baby and he is excited and wants to eat fast, you feed him fast, and probably even express back to him some of his pleasure and excitement in eating. He opens his mouth and you put food in. He takes a minute to rest and you wait to offer food until he again opens up. The two of you are on the same wavelength, and you are both having a good time. Yes. Sign me up.
So you can imagine my surprise when the big moment was over almost as soon as it began. I offered a spoonful of rice cereal, the recommended first food, he took it, and then refused to open his mouth again. I sat there chatting with him, showed him the spoon a few more times, nothing. I tried not to be disappointed as we washed the cereal down the drain. And, as this scenario repeated itself for days, then weeks, afterwards, sometimes with even that first bite refused, I tried to keep my nervousness in check. The tips started to trickle in from people around me: "Pretend you're eating some", they said. "He doesn't know it's food yet, just shove it in." At our six-month checkup, the pediatrician remarked, "Still not eating? Start trying other foods, then anything."
I didn't like the sound of moving on before we had mastered Step 1. Wouldn't that be already capitulating to the whims of a baby who didn't know better? Or worse, make each subsequent step even more difficult? I referred back to Satter's book regularly for encouragement. But whenever I was in the moment, faced with a bowl of cereal and a baby who couldn't care less, the advice from the book fell away and the voices in my head started shouting at each other. "Oh, just shove it in!" yelled one. "No, give him time!" yelled another one right back. I couldn't go on like this.
So I did what any other neurotic mother would do: I phoned Ellyn Satter. Within moments, I felt like I was on the psychiatrist's couch. "Let me ask you this," Ellyn said. "What's the urgency of getting food into Franklin?" I had no good answer. Starvation certainly wasn't a danger, as we were doing just fine with breastfeeding. "I guess I'm wondering if I'm being too careful, wondering if he'll ever learn," I said sheepishly. "It all goes back to trust, doesn't it?" came the voice on the other end of the line. "Trusting that your baby will learn, and that he really does want to grow up. But you start getting scared and losing your trust that he will learn."
She was so warm I was ready to weep. We talked for more than an hour, but throughout the whole conversation I found myself wanting more advice than she was giving. It started dawning on me that it was because there wasn't more; by telling me to trust my baby, she had already said everything I needed to know. When it was time to hang up, I didn't want to say goodbye. "He'll just do what he wants to when he's ready," she said. "I'd recommend to you that you set aside your agenda and cultivate your curiosity."
She had said as much in her book. If you have an image and a timetable for what you want your baby to be and when you want him to be it, realize how that makes you miss out on the delightful person your baby really is, but at this moment, it was like the clouds breaking overhead and a ray of sunshine bursting through. And the ray was: I had entirely missed the point of the book. You don't feed your baby in this way in order to nurture forth a little epicure; you feed your baby in this way out of respect for him, and for however he wants to turn out, even if that means he might not love eating as much as you do. Maybe he'll love music, or crossword puzzles, or even something you can't stand, like football or Wes Anderson movies. And you'll have to set aside any expectations or disappointments and decide to love the reality of this surprising individual instead. My whole life I had seen food as symbolic of everything else; this new level blew my mind.
I love your book Child of Mine, and I credit it with my three-year-old's being such a great eater. He loves fruits and vegetables! His preschool teacher calls him a vacuum cleaner. The only things he doesn't like are the typical toddler/preschooler favorites like grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese. He only recently started eating peanut butter and jelly! We've never forced him to taste or eat anything, we don't prepare special meals for him, and when we fix a main dish that he doesn't care for we make sure we offer side dishes that he'll eat. I now give Child of Mine as a gift to pregnant friends. ~ Ashley, parent
As a dietitian I have read Ellyn's manuals and watched the videos as well so that I can counsel parents. But only since having a child of my own have I realized the importance of the division of responsibility. My busy 2-year-old boy can be quite a handful and has made our life quite busy for sure. However, we all look forward to mealtime. My son runs eagerly to the table when he is called and both my husband and I enjoy sitting with him to eat and engage with him and watch him really enjoy mealtime. He has become a child that eats a variety of foods and will eat most everything we prepare for him. We allow him to eat whatever he wants in the meal and do not coax him to eat anything else. Our friends look at us a little strange when we all get together to eat, especially when we allow him to have seconds of something before finishing other items on his plate or allowing him to have dessert when he has eaten very little. Mostly though I think they are amazed at how well he eats in general and how pleasant he is at the table. I am so thankful for the joy and relaxation we are able to experience at our family meals and I know it is due to the fact that we are following Ellyn's philosophy.... we do our job and we allow him to do his. ~ Carla
I had great success as a mother using your division of responsibility methods. My kids were extremely picky eaters as toddles and young children and we just stayed the course with the division of responsibility. It took many years but we got there. I distinctly remember the first time my son asked us to pass the broccoli. We did so without any fanfare, as if he asked for it every night of his life but I was jumping for joy inside with the satisfaction that this method truly does work for the long term. We also enjoyed how he would politely decline foods he didn't like; it was clear with his language that he intended to eat that food someday. My kids are now teenagers and it gives me great satisfaction to see them eat a wide variety of foods with gusto. ~ a registered dietitian and parent
The first night that I decided to start implementing the ideas of the "Divison of Responsibility" I served fajitas, knowing full well that my daughter would not like the meat and some of the accompaniments. I served the fajitas buffet style and let her help herself to whatever she wanted. She only ate tortillas and cheese, but declared that this was "the best dinner ever!" Simply changing the format from fixing her a balanced plate of what I thought she should eat to letting her help herself and removing the pressure made a world of difference to her and she obviously enjoyed the experience! The pressure and nagging at mealtimes has disappeared and we are all happier for it. Slowly but surely, I'm seeing little increases in her food repetoire. ~ Angela
Hi Ellyn... I just wanted to send a note of thanks for your wonderful book Child of Mine. It is THE book that always refer friends to when we talk about feeding our children. My kids are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2, and both wonderful eaters...and I largely credit this to YOUR book. It was pivotal as I figured out how to feed my daughter in her babyhood, and I refer back to it frequently when I need a little coaching (and someone to tell me to "chill out"!). Living in Los Angeles, we are bombarded with bizarre standards of beauty, and it feels good to know that we are doing fine. I eagerly look forward to your next book, and to continued news about your work! ~ Carrie
Dear Ellyn, I am writing to thank you so very much for your books. I live in the San Francisco Bay area and your books were recommended by the lactation consultant at Kaiser Permanente. My daughter Penny is 11 months old, and has been, exclusively breastfed without bottles or formula. We ventured down the solids road at six months, and thankfully had Child of Mine so we could follow her lead. I was VERY apprehensive about making the transition to solid foods because of my own issues with food. I was forced to eat as a child, hit with a belt for not eating, lots of power and control issues around food growing up, which I am STILL working on healing and overcoming as an adult at 44. I have made a lot of progress in the years I have been in recovery/therapy, but I still feel incredibly fearful that my own eating habits are not up to par and nothing to emulate and how-the-heck-am-I-going-to-teach-this-little-precious-baby-how-to-eat-when-I-barely-know-what-I'm-doing-myself?!!!
I loved breastfeeding because my baby was in charge, and I had nothing to do with the what and the when and the how much of eating. I realized I was terrified of making the transition to solids, only having my totally abusive experience to draw on and not knowing what to do. When I started reading your books, I felt so much relief and also realized they were helping me tremendously to heal my own relationship with food. I am so determined that my baby have a pleasant, healthy, relaxed, and SANE relationship with food and I am deeply grateful for your work and your books which are invaluable not only for her but for me (and my husband too)! Child of Mine is on the top of the stack of books on my bedside table and I read it daily. With gratitude and best wishes ~ Leslie
My 16 month old daughter was born with liver disease and received a liver transplant at 6 months of age. My story about getting her to eat post-transplant is long and emotional for me. I loved breastfeeding and was heartbroken when she refused to eat-anything! After having a NG-Tube and then eventually a G-Tube placement, we ended up feeding her by placing her in her high chair to tube feed her at regular times each day while also offering finger foods and formula by mouth. We decided not to "pump" feed her through the tube throughout the night. It just didn't make sense to my husband and I that anyone should feel full all night long. I couldn't believe it when I found your book and there was actually a section on tube feeding. The philosophy you present helped me so much and within three months our daughter was not using the tube for feeds at all and on June 2nd she had it removed. I truly believe it is because I let go of forcing and begging her to eat and just provided her with regular times in the high chair. I thank you. ~ A grateful parent
Your book Child of Mine really changed the way my daughter Kyla ate. She refused table foods, other than Cheerios, only wanting to eat pureed baby food. After reading your book, I realized I was going about feeding her all wrong. I started following your advice and she has become an incredible eater, not afraid to try new things. I also have improved how I view food, which has improved our family meals. Thanks! ~ Georgette, parent
Dear Ellyn, My daughter Martha was born at 26-3/7 weeks. Because of several GI blockages and infections as a preemie in the hospital, she was fed parenteral nutrition via IV for a long time. Every time she was started on breast milk (I pumped for months and months), she would have a major setback, such as an infection, and would have to be put back on parenteral nutrition. By the time she was ready to come home, she only weighed 5 pounds and was unable to swallow because of several rounds of intubation. She came home on a G-tube, and we fed her around the clock every 3 hours for many months. I am ecstatic to say that several months after she came home, we were able to discontinue the G-tube and she was able to breastfeed for a few months.
Starting on solid foods was another matter. Martha has never been a very good eater. My last year has been filled with *daily* anxiety about what exactly to feed her and how much she would (mostly would not) eat. I had your book at home, but had not cracked the section on toddlers. About a week ago, I did just that, and it has changed everything! I have let go of most of my anxiety, since I have embraced the division of responsibility. I have completely stopped making separate meals for Martha, and we now sit together for all meals and snacks. I think we were both happier the very first day! My husband and I have made the big decision to have family dinner together every night while Martha is still awake. We are all happier having an earlier dinner, and Martha is actually eating fairly well. It's very hard to adjust to not coaxing or cajoling or begging, but I can already see that it's helping a lot. ~ Kathy
I am dietitian with a culinary degree who struggled for three years to feed a child labeled as "failure to thrive" and with feeding delays. I felt like a failure on many levels. My son has dairy and egg allergies but is otherwise healthy. He was introduced solids at six months. For the first two months, my son spit food out. A few months later, he was introduced to finger foods. He accepted dry foods, such as cereals, but choked or gagged on anything moist. He also gagged or even vomited watching others eat. By his first birthday, his weight had dropped from consistently the 25th percentile to below the 5th percentile.
I brought in an occupational therapist weekly and I also turned to a hospital-based feeding program. The feeding team assessed my son's feeding skills and determined that his issues were mainly behavioral and that he would later benefit from their intensive program. The physician there told me that a child with a feeding problem would starve to death rather than eat foods beyond their comfort level. I got scared and started catering to him. At 21 months, my son began their four-week feeding program. A variety of food was forcibly placed in his month and he was rewarded for taking a bite with a minute of playing with a toy. My husband and I were trained in this "feeding protocol" at home. Family meals with too many distractions were out of the question. My son returned to the 25th percentile in weight within two months of his discharge.
However, after one year he rebelled against the feeding practice. No reward could get him to eat and he had to be dragged to the table. At our year follow-up, I told the feeding team that their method was failing to produce normal eating. He had lost weight and was once again below the 5th percentile. They suggested an appetite stimulant and warned me that my son could become dangerously thin if I failed to stick with their methods. This is when I took the risk to begin the division of responsibility family meals. For two months, my son ate little to nothing and gagged watching others eat. I questioned my decision daily. Then he gradually started to eat more. He regained all the weight he lost and continued to gain. Four months later, he had returned to the 25th percentile. I eat almost every meal with my son and his 1 year-old brother and my husband joins on the weekends.
He comes willingly to the table, but is still very limited in his accepted variety. Somehow his diet, along with soy formula, is adequate. He has boundless energy, proper nutritional status and he has maintained his growth and weight percentiles. Now almost four years old, my son is getting curious about foods. He proclaims that he loves a food he has never eaten. He serves himself a food and leaves it uneaten. This is huge progress for a kid who once would not go near unfamiliar foods. He now eats tomato pie and we can have pizza nights. He enjoys bagels and going out for brunch. He loves cooking even if he does not eat the finished product. These things would have been impossible a year ago. It may take much longer before I can share my love of food with my son, but eating is no longer a major issue for our family. Most importantly, he is thriving. ~ Parent
UPDATE: This story was written 4 years ago. Now my son is 8. At his 8 year well visit, he was at the 45%ile for BMI and the 40th for weight for age. Not bad for a kid who had fallen off the growth curve at age 1. He added a new food or two every year after we stopped all feeding interventions. This sounds like slow going. However, it has been enough for us to gain experiences I never thought possible when he was a baby. Pizza parties, pasta at our favorite Italian restaurant as a family, Sunday brunch at our favorite diner, pb&j packed lovingly for lunch, and a sense of total normalcy for my son both socially and at home. This year we ended up at Brazilian steakhouse and a Habachi restaurant because my son was curious about them. Last night at dinner he tried spaghetti after having seen it many times for years and announced that he could not wait to start trying more new foods. I waited for 5 years to hear that sentence. I never stopped believing he would get there one day and on his own terms. Fighting the urge to push, suggest and nag has been a great test for me over the years. Looking back it is the single most patient thing I have ever done as a mother.
Now that my son has been healthy for 5 years, I returned to work as a pediatric dietitian. Every day I listen to parents tell their stories of picky eating, fights around the table, and the emotional roller coaster they experience every day and every meal. I see now what our lives could have been like if I had kept fighting and trying to control my son’s eating. I now help other parents accept their children and their eating styles for what they are and to give it patience and time.
You're awesome! I am reading your book Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family and I must say everything you write in this book rings true. I have an eight-month-old baby boy who's now eating solids. My sister, a dietitian, told me about you and encouraged me to read ANY of your books (she raves that they're all accurate and easy to read... I think she's right!). While reading your book, I've come to realize that my parents raised us to eat much like you encourage your readers to do so. They made meals a family affair, didn't diet or excuse their appreciation of food, and offered a variety of foods at each meal.Even with these excellent role models, I still felt somewhat confused and a little overwhelmed when it came to introducing solid foods to my son. Thank you very much for putting into words what I've always known. I really appreciate it! As a child, I was always the biggest girl in my class and LOVED to eat. Now, I am a healthy 5'5", 150lb woman with a positive body image. I've often wondered why it's been easy for me to embrace my body type and to not fall victim to the 'skinny-girl' image society wants us to covet. Now I think it's because of my parents, the excellent role models I've had all my life. Thanks for bringing this to light and for making me appreciate them that much more! ~ Corrine, a pleased parent
I feel like I came within incheas of creating a real eating disorder in my son when I happened upon Ellyn Satter's book Your Child's Weight, Helping Without Harming. Reading her book helped me break a multi-generational cycle of weight and food issues. My son was two years old when I found myself sobbing to my mother over the phone about having to worry abut my child's weight, after worrying about my own eating all my life.
My son had gone from premature and tiny to a heavy boy who was off the weight chart within a year. By the time he was two, he was obsessed with food, shoveling it into his mouth and badgering me relentlessly when I tried to prepare meals. The pediatrician had said we should try cutting out something, but we already fed him such healthy food I didn't know what to cut out. My mother's response that night turned on a light bulb that changed my life forever and sent me in search of something ... and luckily I found Ellyn's work.
That night, my mom provided suggestions that she had used with me and my sister when we were young, such as "pouring milk into the cereal bowl before pouring in the cereal so the cereal would float on top and look like more." She also said that she had "noticed" that I had given whole-milk cottage cheese to my son one day. When I mentioned that it was hard to get my son to run around at the playground because loved the swings so much, she suggested I take him to parks without swings. She called me back a couple of days later to discuss how concerned she was about Trey's weight.
I love and admire my mother, but luckily I was able to see the absurdity of her suggestions, particularly as she has had her own struggles with food and weight since she was a teenager. Furthermore, my sister had a serious eating disorder as a teenager. There are issues on my husband's side as well, and I believe our history led us both to be conciously and unconciously restricting our son's food. He was obsessed with food because we were restricting, particularly fats. I found Ellyn's book through a message board, and told my husband I wanted to do an experiment that would sound crazy. I asked him to let us try for one month. Within two weeks of using Ellyn's suggestions our son's relationship with food was completely transformed. I changed my own habits as well, and have never felt better.
Yes, my son, who just turned four, still LOVES to eat and stays at the table longer than any other child I know. Yes, he is still off the chart for weight (and 90% for height). But no longer is he obssessed, nor do we parents struggle. He is right where he should be for who is as a person, and he is in control of his eating. We all eat breakfast and dinner together most days, and we are a better family for it. We enjoy eating all kinds of food I used to consider "off limits" due to fat content. I love serving my son dessert with dinner and watching him alternate between ice cream and carrots. I could go on and on, but I should wrap this up. Thank you Ellyn! ~ Jill
At his 3-year check up, my son's pediatrician was concerned about my son's low weight - he was in the 3%. Grady has always been long and lean, but his weight percentile was dropping. The pediatrician recommended putting Grady on medication to increase his appetite. Medicating someone so they'd eat just didn't sound right to me and I asked him to give me 3 months, and a referral to a nutritionist, to see what we could accomplish without the meds.
Our nutritionist was a wonderful woman who made me realize I had been restricting foods and generally not making eating much fun for Grady. Most of my hangups were left over from my own childhood when we belonged to the "clean-plate club." The nutritionist recommended I read your book Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. It was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders - all I had to be responsible for was providing a healthy, balanced set of meals and snacks, and then Grady was responsible for the rest. Phew!!
It took a little while to get my husband on board with having dessert served up even if very little else had been eaten, but over time he too began to understand that the new philosophy was working. Grady gained weight, I shed my stress over food, and now we are all eating better. I only wish I could get my friends, who continue to battle over food with their preschoolers, to understand. Thank you. ~ Sara