Nurturing young children through responsive feeding

Responsive feeding involves reciprocal positive interactions between the caregiver and the child that encourage the child to eat, develop preferences for healthy foods and beverages, and progressively eat independently. Responsive feeding both relies on and supports the integration of all five components of nurturing care into the feeding process.

This brief, organized around five key messages, explains what is meant by responsive feeding and how to create the enabling environments for caregivers to responsively feed their young children. Practical examples from Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico, Timor-Leste and the West Bank are included.

Key messages on responsive feeding

  1. Comprehensive counselling involves breastfeeding, developmentally appropriate feeding of healthy, nutritious, safe and hygienic foods, as well as how to feed infants and young children responsively.
  2. Responsive feeding is part of nurturing care, and an essential aspect of adequate nutrition and responsive caregiving.
  3. Responsive feeding promotes positive caregiver-child interactions and early learning, enables caregivers to respond to their child’s cues and helps infants and young children develop healthy food preferences.
  4. Interventions to support responsive feeding for optimal nutrition of infants and young children should be implemented and coordinated across systems including health and nutrition, social welfare, parenting and childcare programmes.
  5. Interventions to support responsive feeding for optimal nutrition should be implemented for all children everywhere.