Nurturing a Healthy Relationship with Food in Children Day 2: Responsive Feeding

Nurturing a Healthy Relationship with Food in Children

One of the key factors that impact babies’ growth and development is their relationship with food. Feeding and weaning are crucial aspects of a child’s growth, and doing it right can have a long-lasting impact on their physical and mental health.

Responsive feeding is an approach that can help foster a healthy relationship between a child and food. It involves recognizing your baby’s cues for hunger and responding accordingly, allowing them to have control over what and how much they eat.

Benefits of Responsive Feeding

  • It encourages intuitive eating: Babies are intuitive eaters and know how much they need to eat. By allowing them to control what and how much they eat, we can help them develop a healthy relationship with food. When children feel pressured to eat, their appetite decreases. Responsive feeding encourages them to be in control of their food choices, leading to better appetite regulation in the long run.
  • It reduces the risk of choking: Responsive feeding is a sensible approach to adopt as it reduces the likelihood of choking. When babies are attuned to their internal hunger and fullness cues, they are less likely to choke on their food.
  • It develops better eating habits: By nurturing a healthy relationship with food early on, we can help children develop better eating habits that they can carry into adulthood.
  • 5 Steps to Start Responsive Feeding

    1) Create a safe and comfortable feeding environment

    Seat your baby in a safe and comfortable position, either on your lap or on a booster seat or high chair. This will ensure that they are in a position to eat safely.

    2) Let your baby explore the food

    Give your baby a few minutes to explore the food that’s placed in front of them. This way, they can engage their senses and develop a keen curiosity with food.

    3) Set an example

    If you can, sit across from your baby and eat as well. This can help your child’s mirror neurons imitate what you’re doing, and they will learn how to eat by looking at your actions and expressions.

    4) Offer food in a non-pressurized manner

    a) If you’re doing baby-led weaning, put a little bit of the food on their trays or on your palm and offer it to the baby. Let the baby reach out for the food. If they do not reach out for the food, you can hold it with your fingers in front of them, at eye level, and wait for them to grab it and feed themselves.

    b) If you’re doing traditional weaning, scoop up the food in a spoon and offer it to the baby, but hold the spoon a few inches away from their mouth and wait for the baby to reach for the spoon.

    5) Respect your baby’s cues

    If your baby is closing their mouth, looking to the side, or turning their face away, do not follow them around with the spoon of food. That’s your baby telling you that they’re no longer hungry at the moment. Avoid scraping off bits of food stuck on or around your baby’s mouth using a spoon (this action can create a negative association with food). You can clean off the bits at the end of the meal using a soft, clean, and wet cloth.

    Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • Let your baby decide how much to eat. Don’t force your baby to eat more than what they’re ready for.
  • Pause if your baby is not interested (crying, fussy, or pushing food away). Stop the meal and try again later.
  • Avoid expecting your child to finish a fixed quantity of food. Instead focus on introducing a variety of flavor, textures, colors, and smells of food.