M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
Free & Live Chat with the Happy Baby Experts
Read time: 5 minutes
Having a picky eater can leave us feeling frustrated and anxious. The good news is that with some patience and commitment, using the Division of Responsibility (DOR) can help take the stress out of mealtime and bring your little one closer to being a more adventurous eater.
The DOR is a feeding model developed by Ellyn Satter, a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Family Therapist;1 and is recognized as best practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.2, 3, 4
By following the DOR, you (the caregiver or parent) are responsible for providing nutritious foods at meals and snacks (the what, when, and where of eating). Your child then takes the lead by deciding how much of that food to eat, whether they will eat it at all (the how much and whether of eating).5, 6
What: You prepare balanced meals and snacks for the family.
When: You decide what time meals and snacks will be. Keep them at consistent intervals and try not to allow eating between.
Where: Sit-down meals and snacks are best. Aim to have your child sit in the same place for each meal and snack to help build a routine and good meal-time behavior.
How much: Of the foods you provide, your little one will decide how much of each food to eat.
Whether: Your little one may decide not to eat one or all of the foods provided.
Tips: Keep mealtimes positive and relaxed. No need to worry if your little one doesn’t even try some of the foods provided. Model appropriate mealtime behavior, reflecting your own family values and traditions. Patience is key here as you allow your child to decide how much or how little their body needs, following their naturally strong internal hunger and fullness cues.7
Read more: Learning to Love Healthy Foods
Research shows that families who follow the DOR are more likely to have children who are competent eaters.8 This means the child:
During infancy, parents determine what the child eats (breastmilk or formula), while the child controls the where, when, and how much.7
Tips: Pay attention to your baby’s feeding cues and feed when baby shows hunger signs. Let your baby indicate which position is most comfortable, and then let them feed however they need to: Slow, fast, steady, or stop-and-go.7 Allow your little one to show you when they are ready to stop.9
Read more: Should I Feed My Baby On Demand or on a Schedule?
As your baby starts solid foods, you determine what and where your child eats while your child decides if they are going to eat and how much they will eat.7 At this age you share the responsibility of ‘when’ as you slowly transition away from on-demand feeding toward a more regular schedule with solid foods.7
Tips: Be conscious of your little one’s hunger and fullness cues; don’t force them to eat if they seem full or disinterested.9 This is a time of exploration: let your baby try many new foods and textures.10 Continue to introduce foods over and over; it may take 10 tastes or more before your little one begins to accept it.12
Read more: Understanding Your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding
Your toddler wants to do everything on their own at this age! When it comes to food, you want your little one to start exerting their independence and feed themselves. You are responsible for what, when, and where your child eats, while your child will decide how much and whether to eat.7
Tips: Part of the DOR is making sure you don’t pressure your little one to eat. Making your child eat when they don’t want to may create eating struggles that could last for years.7, 9
Family meals play an important role in the DOR. Think about planning one meal for the family, including at least one food that you know your little one will eat. Family meals also allows you to model healthy eating.13 Your little one will follow your lead, making it more likely they’ll try the foods they watch you eat.12
Children who participate in shared family meals have been shown to have healthier eating patterns and are more likely to be within a healthy weight range.9, 11
Read more: Family Meals: Healthy Eating Patterns
In addition to fostering healthy eating habits, sticking to the DOR principles will help your child know what to expect when it comes to eating. Using it over time will allow you to eventually see results and your picky eater may begin to be more adventurous.
Have questions about your picky eater? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Introducing solids can be different for different babies. Some babies are eager for opportunities to eat solids, while others take time coming around to try new food consistencies and flavors. This is entirely normal.
As your child works their way up to 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day (often by 12 months and beyond), aim to keep meal and snack times consistent. Try not to let your little one eat within 1 to 2 hours of a meal so that they come to the table hungry and ready to eat.15
Read more: Easy, Healthy Snack Ideas for Moms and Toddlers
Offer a variety of wholesome foods at meal and snack times. Emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins for the entire family.16
Read more: Picky Eater Meal Plan: Recipe and Snack Ideas
Offer a variety of foods knowing that sometimes a favorite will be on the menu and other times it will not.
Babies and children often accept new foods when paired with foods they already know and like.1 So when you’re meal planning, make sure to include at least one food each family member accepts (this can be as simple as placing whole grain bread on the table alongside the main dish and sides).
However, avoid offering alternatives for the main dish as this may send the message that you don’t expect your child to learn to like new foods.
Trust that your child will eat what they need and allow them to have as much or as little of the foods you offer. Don’t worry about your child occasionally skipping a meal or snack altogether. As long as you offer foods at consistent times from day to day your child will have plenty of opportunities to get the nutrition they need over time.
Read more: Feeding Tips for Healthy Weight Gain in Babies and Toddlers
Read more: When it’s More Than Picky Eating: 4 Warning Signs
Studies show that pressuring children to eat “healthy” foods such as vegetables can backfire, causing them to be even less likely to eat those foods in the future.14 Let your child choose what they want from the foods you put on the table or their tray. It’s perfectly fine (and normal) if your child only eats one or two of the foods you offer.
As you serve different foods at the family table, encourage everyone to have a taste, but reassure them that they don’t have to, there will be other opportunities!
For more information about picky eating, check out our Picky Eating Hub
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
How Can I Get My Baby to Love Veggies?
Introducing solids: First foods and advancing textures
Family meals: Healthy Eating Patterns
Strategies for Creating a Healthy Kitchen
1. Ellyn Satter Institute. Raise a healthy child who is a joy to feed; Follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Accessed 25 August 2021. https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/the-division-of-responsibility-in-feeding/
2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Benchmarks for Nutrition in Child Care. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018;118(7):1291-1300. https://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(18)30669-5/pdf
3. American Academy of Pediatrics. No More “Clean Plate” Club. Accessed 26 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/The-Clean-Plate-Club.aspx
4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Toddler Food and Feeding. Accessed 26 August 2021. https://www.aap.org/en/patient-care-pages-in-progress/healthy-active-living-for-families/toddler-food-and-feeding/
5. Satter, E. Feeding Dynamics: Helping Children Eat Well. J Pediatr Health Care. Jul-Aug 1995;9(4):178-84. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7629684/
6. Satter, E. The Feeding Relationship: Problems and Interventions. J Pediatr. 1990 Aug; 117(2 Pt 2):S181-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2199651/
7. Ellyn Satter Institute. Child Feeding Ages and Stages. Accessed 26 August 2021. https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/child-feeding-ages-and-stages/
8. Satter, E. Eating Competence: Definition and Evidence for the Satter Eating Competence Model. J Nutr Educ Behav. Sep-Oct 2007;39(5 Suppl):S142-53. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17826695/
9. American Academy of Pediatrics. Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained. Accessed 26 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx
10. American Academy of Pediatrics. Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. Healthy Habits Start Early. Accessed 26 August 2021. https://ihcw.aap.org/Documents/Early%20Feeding/Solid%20Foods/AAP-Solid-Foods_Print-Fact-Sheet.pdf
11. Hammons, A., Fiese, B. Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Healthy of Children and Adolescents? Pediatrics June 2011, 127 (6) e1565-e1574 https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/e1565
12. Mura Paroche M, Caton SJ, Vereijken CMJL, Weenen H, Houston-Price C. How Infants and Young Children Learn About Food: A Systematic Review. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1046. Published 2017 Jul 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524770/
13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mealtime Routines and Tips. Accessed 27 August 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/mealtime/mealtime-routines-and-tips.html
14. Yee AZ, Lwin MO, Ho SS. The influence of parental practices on child promotive and preventive food consumption behaviors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Apr 11;14(1):47. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0501-3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28399881/
15. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. When Should My Kids Snack? Accessed 27 August 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/when-should-my-kids-snack
16. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Make Your Kid’s Meal a MyPlate Superstar. Accessed 27 August 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/make-your-kids-meal-a-myplate-superstar