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The importance of responsive feeding for lifelong health

Did you know? Both pressuring your baby to eat more, or restricting how much they eats, can interfere with their growth.

2 mins to read Dec 29, 2021

As a parent who is introducing your little one to complementary feeding, you may find yourself encouraging your baby to have “just one more spoonful” of food or to finish what’s in their bowl. Instead of focusing on how much your baby is eating, pay attention to the signals from them.

Watch, listen, feed

When it comes to offering your baby food, recognizing and responding to their hunger and fullness cues in a timely manner, without pressuring or restricting how much they eat, is the foundation of responsive feeding. Your baby can’t use words to tell you they want food, or they’ve had enough, but they will let you know in other ways.

The principles of responsive feeding:

  • offering a variety of healthy foods at regular meal and snack times
  • creating a warm, nurturing environment for feeding times
  • recognizing your baby’s hunger and fullness cues and responding appropriately
  • only offering food when your baby is hungry, not as a reward or punishment

Remember that babies are born with the ability to recognize when they’re hungry or full. Now that you are offering complementary foods, your baby still has the ability to eat when hungry and stop when full. “Tune in to your baby’s cues now and your little one will reap the health benefits later on,” reiterates Lisa Fries, PhD, Behavioral Scientist at Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland. “Babies whose parents practice responsive feeding tend to eat a healthier diet and maintain a healthier weight. By forcing another spoonful you could override your baby’s natural ability to self-regulate how much she eats.”

“As long as you offer nutritious foods, and pay attention to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues,” explains Dr. Fries, “there is no need to try to get them to eat more or less than they choose.”

Sources

  • Black MM, Aboud FE. Responsive feeding is embedded in a theoretical framework of responsive parenting. J Nutr 2011; 141(3):490-4.

  • Dattilo AM Programming long-term health: Effect of parent feeding approaches on long-term diet and eating patterns. In: Early nutrition and long-term health, mechanisms, consequences and opportunities. Ed., Saavedra and Dattilo, Elsevier, 2017:471-95.

  • Dinkevich E, Leid L, Pryor K et al. Mothers’ feeding behaviors in infancy: Do they predict child weight trajectories? Obesity (Silver Spring) 2015; 23(12):2470-6.

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