Ultra-marathons, Iron-man races, Spartan races, challenges that require all of your physical, emotional, and economical strength. But none compare to the challenge of feeding your children well. It will take all of your patience, goodwill, and best intentions. You will feel clueless, confused, and in constant doubt. So much information, advice, and theories. Where do you start?
Let’s start from the beginning. The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend: “Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after the birth; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months; and continued breastfeeding for two years or more, together with safe, nutritionally adequate, age appropriate, responsive complementary feeding starting in the sixth month”.
And then? When the baby is introduced to solid food (ablactation) and he/she starts having an opinion, things get more interesting. Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter, a recognized authority on infant and children feeding, recommends to follow what she calls the “division of responsibilities”, which applies at every stage of the growing up years, from infancy to adolescence.
As a parent you are responsible for:
What the child eats: You control the quality of the food.
When the child eats: You control the schedule of meals and sit-down snacks.
Where the child eats: You control if the meals are in front of a TV or at the family’s dining room.
The child’s responsibilities are:
How much he/she eats: Junior is in charge of amount of food eaten.
Whether he/she eats or not, after all, you cannot eat for your child.
Just like that, you are in charge of feeding the child, and the child is in charge of eating.
You are also responsible for trusting and respecting that your child is capable of deciding the amount of food they want (and not forcing them to clean up a plate) and if they want to eat or not (easier said than done). Moreover, you will have to refrain from cooking any made-to-order meal if the kiddo didn’t like what is being offered, and to make the family meals as pleasant as possible.
Satter affirms that structured family meals have more to do with raising healthier and happier children than family income, after-school activities, and even having one or two parents living at home.
So, next time you feel like quitting feeding your family, take a deep breath, a sip of wine, and read more about Ellyn Satter’s theories on feeding children.