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. 

Get the Responsive Feeding Fact Sheet

Authored and designed by the therapists and feeding specialists with the Chicago Feeding Group—this graphic fact sheet is a simple and accurate summary of our recommended approach to feeding young children who have transitioned to solid foods.

  • Non-technical language for parents and caregivers
  • Represents the latest evidence-informed recommendations
  • An informational tool to support all children, including those with pediatric feeding disorder


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