What is Responsive Feeding?

A responsive feeding approach is based on the central ideas of a responsive approach to parenting. Responsive behaviors are characterized by prompt responses to a child’s communication, emotionally supportive interactions, contingent responses, and the provision of developmentally appropriate experiences.

Responsive parents:

  • Respond promptly to a child’s communication of hunger or satiety
  • Actively acknowledge a child’s experience during a meal and can share a child’s joy, or acknowledge the child’s distress or discomfort
  • Always consider a child’s developmental level and offer experiences and foods that are appropriate and enjoyable for that child

Responsive feeding practices help children to build independence, confidence, and mealtime skills. 

When children are fed responsively, they learn to look to their caregivers for emotional support and safety during feedings. Shared mealtime experiences allow parents and children to have space to enjoy eating together. 

Over the years, different professionals have used varying terms to refer to responsive feeding practices.  Some of these terms include: child-led feeding, relationship-based feeding, trust-based feeding, and cue-based feeding. 

What is pediatric feeding disorder?

Impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate, and is associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction.

                                                             – Goday et al., 2019

Red Flags That May Indicate Your Child Needs an Evaluation

Are you or your child experiencing any of the following? If so, consider reaching out for help.

  • Feeling stress and worry about whether your child is eating appropriately or growing well
  • Crying or fussing at mealtimes
  • Frequently vomiting or spitting up
  • Arching away from the bottle or breast
  • Coughing, gagging, or increased congestion with eating or drinking
  • Taking longer than 20-30 minutes to eat
  • Difficulty breathing during eating
  • Falling asleep during eating
  • Frequently spitting out of food or liquid
  • Pocketing food or overstuffing mouth with food
  • Eating a limited diet
  • Arguing with a partner or child about what your child eats


We believe that if a parent is concerned, that is enough of a reason to reach out for help. Search our provider directory here to find the right person to help your family.

Professionals, click here to add your information to our directory.

If you aren’t sure whether your child might need an evaluation of his/her feeding skills, take the Feeding Matters Infant and Child Feeding Questionnaire here.


Black, M. M., & Aboud, F. E. (2011). Responsive feeding is embedded in a theoretical framework of responsive parenting. The Journal of Nutrition, 141(3), 490–494. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.129973

Cormack, J., Rowell, K., & Postăvaru, G. I. (2020). Self-Determination Theory as a Theoretical Framework for a Responsive Approach to Child Feeding. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 52(6), 646–651. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2020.02.005

Daniels, L. A. (2019). Feeding Practices and Parenting: A Pathway to Child Health and Family Happiness. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 74(Suppl2), 29–42. https://doi.org/10.1159/000499145

Goday, P. S., Huh, S. Y., Silverman, A., Lukens, C. T., Dodrill, P., Cohen, S. S., … Phalen, J. A. (2019). Pediatric Feeding Disorder: Consensus Definition and Conceptual Framework. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 68(1), 124–129. https://doi.org/10.1097/MPG.0000000000002188

Henton, P. A. (2018). A Call to Reexamine Quality of Life Through Relationship-Based Feeding. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(3), 7203347010p1. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.025650

Klein, M. D. (2019). Anxious Eaters, Anxious Mealtimes Practical and Compassionate Strategies for Mealtime Peace. Archway Publishing.

Morris, S.E. (2003). Becoming a Mealtime Partner. https://86cf41b8-ed83-466c-89ed-7bc32c65fcba.filesusr.com/ugd/57f349_de8e3ef850014e8bbacc2cd16032f308.pdf

Pediatrics, A. A. of. (n.d.). Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained – HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx

Satter, E. (1995). Feeding dynamics: Helping children to eat well. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 9(4), 178–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0891-5245(05)80033-1