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Nutrition program

The importance of responsive feeding for lifelong health

Did you know? Both pressuring your little one to eat more or restricting how much she eats, can interfere with her growth.

3 mins
to read Aug 11, 2021

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

Watch, listen, feed

When it comes to offering your little one food, recognizing and responding to her hunger and fullness cues in a timely manner, without pressuring or restricting how much she eats, is the foundation of responsive feeding. Your little one can’t use words to tell you she wants food, or she’s had enough, but she 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 little one’s hunger and fullness cues as well as responding appropriately
  • only offering food when your little one is hungry, not as a reward or punishment

 

Remember that your little one’s are born with the ability to recognize when they’re hungry or full. Now that you are offering complementary foods, your little one still has the ability to eat when hungry and stop when full. Dr. Lisa Fries, PhD, Behavioural Scientist at Nestle Research Centre in Switzerland suggests to tune in to your little one’s cues now and they will reap the health benefits later on. Little ones whose parents practice responsive feeding tend to eat a healthier diet and maintain a healthier weight. Lisa Fries also described that by forcing another spoonful you could override your little one’s natural ability to self-regulate how much she eats.

Dr. Fries explained that as long as you offer nutritious foods and pay attention to your little one’s hunger and fullness cues, there is no need to try and get her to eat more or less than she 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. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2015; 23(12):2470-6.
  • Dinkevich E, Leid L, Pryor K et al. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2015; 23(12):2470-6
  • Gross RS, Mendelsohn AL, Fierman AH et al. Child Obes 2014: 10(2):145-52
  • Savage JS, Birch LL, Marini M et al. Effect of the INSIGHT responsive parenting intervention on rapid weight gain and overweight status at age 1 year: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatr 2016; 170(8):742-9.  doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0445
  • Thompson AL, Adair LS, Bentley ME. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013; 21(3):562-71.

 

Last revised: December, 2017