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Recently, I was interviewed by Penny Johnston for a podcast on ABC Baby Talk. When answering Penny’s questions, I realised that most of the feeding questions that she, and many parents ask, can be approached from the Feeding Dynamics Model. This model is based on Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

What is normal growth?

Whether it is how to deal with a fussy eater, an overweight child, a child whose weight gain is not what it is expected to be, the first thing is to work out is what is interfering with the child’s natural ability to grow and eat normally. What do I mean by grow normally? Each child is born with an inherited potential to grow to have the size and body shape that they are genetically meant to have. If a child is generally healthy, has enough food available and is allowed to eat the amount of food that she needs to satisfy her appetite, then she will grow to be the size she is meant to be.

What is normal eating?

What do I mean by eat normally? Children will eat and over time will learn to eat the foods that their parents like to eat. Learning to eat a variety of foods is a process that usually takes most of the child’s growing years. You wouldn’t expect a child to be doing Year 6 maths at 3 years of age, just like you can’t expect that a child will like all the foods you like by 3 or even by Year 6! It takes years of neutral exposure for children to learn to like the foods that their parents like.

So what could be interfering with a child’s natural ability to grow and eat normally?

Here are the most common reasons:

  • Pressure on parents from health professionals or family to ‘get’ a child to eat a certain amount or to grow in a particular way.
  • Letting children graze rather than having structured mealtimes
  • A medical condition that affects the child’s appetite or growth
  • Not trusting a child’s appetite and not letting them decide how much to eat at each meal

If you are struggling to feed your child or feel pressured to ‘get’ your child to eat or to attain a particular weight, start by feeding according to the Division of Responsibility in Feeding

These booklets will guide you through the basics to get you started.