Let me explain. I found Ellyn Satter and the Division or Responsibility in feeding first as a concerned mother and second as a professional. I have made it my job to spread the word about the beauty and importance of a healthy feeding relationship– and I still get tested at home.
Milk. Calcium. It's that important. M always drank enough milk to cover her calcium needs until about 8 weeks ago. Abruptly and matter of factly she refused milk and always opted for water at meals and snacks. Without milk, she was not getting the recommended amount of calcium. She ate small amounts of yogurt, ice-cream and cream cheese, but not "enough." I did better about drinking milk at meals to provide an example, but I stuck to my job, and let her do hers. That is, I offered milk and if she refused, I did not lecture, pressure, bribe, praise or cajole her to try to get her to drink milk. I trusted that it would work out.
What would I tell my clients? "Trust that if you drink milk as a family, that she too will return to it." I gave myself the same pep talks and advice that I share with clients. "It will take time, be patient. Her attitude about eating and meals is more important than what she eats on any given day." (As Ellyn puts it.) Then weeks went by and no milk. I offered home-made hot chocolate which she drank happily for awhile, made oatmeal with milk, cooked with condensed milk, bought rice pudding again, which she refuses to try so far. (See addendum on Calcium in Child of Mine for more great ideas...) I supported her calcium intake with my cooking while I waited for her to come back to milk.
But why was it taking so long! My resolve was wearing away. This morning I woke up and thought about milk. Do I start only offering milk? I know she likes it... No. I will trust that this will work out and stop worrying about it.
Then, at breakfast, she had a banana and dry cereal and an apple (bread and butter was on offer, but she didn't want it.) I was drinking milk with my toast and she asked for some milk in her cereal (first time in months.) Then she proceeded to have several small servings of cereal and milk (she likes her Kix crunchy...) She certainly got an adequate serving this morning.
It was such a powerful reminder and example of how kids will do well with feeding if we support them and don't bring pressure into the equation. What would our lives be like if I had pressured and pushed milk a few weeks ago? Would we be in battles every day over milk? Would it turn her off milk for years, possibly forever (like my relative who literally gagged down a glass of warm milk every morning and now won't drink it...)
It reminds me of the anxiety and worry my clients have over fruits, vegetables, quantities, calcium, protein etc. These experiences with my daughter are amazing first-hand affirmations of the model of feeding I teach. I face challenges with feeding, but I have the tools and skills to handle them and I want to pass those skills along.
"Hang in there," I told myself, and I tell my clients. If you can stick with it, truly and honestly, and get the pressure out of feeding, chances are very good that your child will eat better and your family will be a lot happier.