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Raise a healthy child who is a joy to feed

Follow the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding

The Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding

When you follow the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding (sDOR), your child will become Eating Competent. sDOR encourages you to take leadership with the whatwhen, and where of feeding and let your child determine how much and whether to eat of what you provide. sDOR applies at every stage in your child’s growing-up years, from infancy through the early years through 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, your job is to maintain the structure of family meals and sit-down snacks throughout your child’s 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 beverages (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.
  • Eat the amount he needs.
  • Learn to eat the food you enjoy.
  • Grow predictably in the way that is right for him.
  • Learn to behave well at mealtime.

For a PDF of Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding, click here. For a PDF of  Ellyn Satter’s división de la responsabilidad al alimentar (sDOR in Spanish), click here.

For a free, printer-ready division of responsibility poster in a size that is right for your office, click here.

Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding Infants

When you feed your infant, you are responsible for what they are offered to eat: Whether they will be breast- or formula fed. They are responsible for everything else: how much, how fast, how frequently.

Your responsibilities
  • Choose breast or formula feeding.
  • Help your infant be calm and organized.
  • Pay attention to and respect their sleeping, waking, and feeding cues.
  • Feed smoothly, paying attention to their cues about timing, tempo, frequency, and amounts.

Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding: solids introduction to family food

The Satter Division of Responsibility for introducing your older baby to solid foods is based on what they can do, not how old they are. That is, go by their developmental maturity, not their age.  Based on developmental, guide your baby’s transition from nipple feeding through semi-solids, then thick-and-lumpy food, and finally to finger food at your family meals.

  • You are still responsible for what, and you are becoming responsible for when and where your child is fed.
  • Your child is still and always responsible for how much and whether they eat the foods you offer.

Satter Division of Responsibility in feeding toddlers through adolescents

  • You are responsible for what, when, and where.
  • Your child is responsible for how much and whether.

Feeding is parenting

Child of Mine

From Child of Mine

Chapter 1; page 4; letters from parents

I have raised my children according to Ellyn Satter’s guidelines, and their eating habits are so good my coworkers comment on them,” wrote one young mother. Another added, “My son is cautious in all things, and offering him new foods wasn’t much fun at first. If I am careful not to push him, however, I have found he ever so slowly pushes himself along to learn to like new foods. He is so proud when he tries something new!” Parents who are worn out and fed up with generating three or four meals to get their child to eat comment about what a relief it is to them to realize that it isn’t their job to get food into their child. They also are surprised at how much better their children eat when they stop their short-order cooking.”

Be faithful with enjoyable family meals and snacks

Structured meals and sit-down snacks are the backbone of the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding from the time your child first joins you at family meals until they leave home. To keep up all the work, you have to enjoy your food. Be considerate without catering with meal planning, but, for the most part, prepare what you enjoy. Even if you worry that your food isn’t very “healthy,” keep in mind that the least healthy meal is tons better than no meal at all! Studies show that family meals are tremendously important. Adults who have regular meals eat better and healthier, no matter their weight. Children and teens who have family meals eat better, feel better about themselves, get along better with other people, and do better in school. They are less likely to gain more weight than is right for them, abuse drugs, smoke, and have sex. In fact, family meals have more to do with raising healthy, happy children than family income, whether the child has one or two parents living in the home, after-school activities, tutors, or church. As children move through the teen years, families are more likely to eat on the run than have meals together. But hang in there! Family meals are important! Expect your teenager to show up for family meals on time and hungry.

Trust your child to eat

Your child wants to eat and they want to grow up to eat the food you eat. Beyond doing your part with structured, sit-down family meals and snacks, you don’t have to do anything to get it to happen. Just be there and enjoy your own food. Keep in mind that grownup food is all new to your child, and they have a lot to learn. For them, it is like any other skill such as reading or bike riding – they learn it bit by bit, at their own pace, because they want to, not because you make them. They will eat like a child: some days a lot, other days not so much, only one or two foods and not everything at a meal. What they eat one day they ignore the other. Don’t try to pressure your child in any way to eat certain amounts or types of food. Don’t try to get them to eat new food. Sooner or later (maybe even months or years later) they will eat almost everything you eat.

Prevent and solve feeding problems

To prevent feeding problems, follow the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding from birth. To solve feeding problems, establish the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding that is appropriate for your child’s stage in development. Whether your child is picky, eats too much or too little, or is too fat or too thin, the solution is the same: do your jobs with feeding and let your child do their jobs with eating. Children who are allowed to eat on the run eat poorly, are picky, and have trouble growing consistently. They may become fatter or thinner than is right for them. Children who aren’t sure when they will get to eat and whether they will get enough worry about food and eat a lot when they can. Children who are pressured to eat certain amounts and types of food get turned off to those foods and avoid them when they can.


Help without harming with your child’s weight

As long as your child’s growth is consistent, it is normal for her, even if it is above the 85th or 95th percentile cutoff points defined by policy makers as constituting child “overweight” or “obesity.” There is a problem if they are growing faster than is right for them: If they suddenly go up on their growth curve. But even then, dieting is not the answer. Instead, think through the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding: Are you doing your jobs with feeding and letting your child do theirs with eating? Are you restricting your child, or trying to get them to eat more of “slimming” foods? Can you stop interfering with what and how much they eat and, instead, provide them with regular meals and snacks and, at those times, let them eat what and as much as they want from what you provide? At first they will likely eat more than usual, but then their eating will settle down and they will eat like other children: a lot sometimes, not so much another. Only time will tell whether their weight remains on the same growth curve or drifts downward to follow a lower curve. This is normal weight for them, and you must accept it, feel good about the body they have, and let them do the same. If you try to slim them down, or if they try to slim, themselves, down, the risk is very high that they will get fatter, not thinner, and they will feel miserable about their weight. For guidance, read Your Child’s Weight: Helping without Harming.


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