Relationship between feeding and development of infants set out for parents for the first time

New guidance helps parents to see the connection between developmental stages and feeding infants and young children

A brand new resource for parents combines the developmental stages of infants and young children and their relationship with food and feeding. This influence starts as early as in the womb.

The resource has been launched by an independent group of leading experts in infant and child nutrition and development, the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF). This is a practical guide to help parents and carers recognise and understand how growing infants and young children develop skills related to food and feeding – including taste, texture and food preferences – and how these impacts on the types of foods they are willing to eat both now and in future life.

The guidance also provides tips on responsive feeding – how to recognise an infant or toddlers’ cues that indicate when they are hungry and when they have had enough to eat or drink. Allowing an infant or toddler to respond to natural feelings of fullness and regulating appetite may help to prevent obesity in later life.

This guide builds on the resource released last year for healthcare professionals, and is evidence based. The information is split into five easy to follow age group sections, giving in-depth and illustrated advice on feeding babies and young children.

Gillian Harris, Developmental and Clinical Psychologist and a member of the ITF comments:

“Feeding babies and young children can be an intense and emotional (positive and negative) experience for both parent and child. During the early years, a child’s relationship with food and feeding, including the introduction of complementary foods and the transition to family foods, can be critical for his or her health and development, and have long term consequences on dietary range.”

“Parents often ask when their child will develop feeding and drinking related skills and acquire preferences for particular foods. This guidance aims to provide parents with that knowledge to help them be better informed on their child’s developmental milestones. It is a great resource.”

The guidance is supported by other useful resources for parents, including Portion Sizes and Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers, as well as information on common problems such food refusal and allergies.

 The Developmental Stages in Infant and Toddler Feeding resource is available now.


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Further Reading

  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist Dr Maddy Harris, Clinical Psychologist   In times of crisis – such as the one we are currently living in – parents may find that the normal stresses of everyday life are magnified and additional worries and concerns emerge. Knowing how to cope may prove difficult, but an approach which has widely been discussed in the media and on social media is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).The premise of ACT is that fears and anxieties are seen as real and cannot be ‘challenged’ away, unlike with cognitive behavioural therapy. By concentrating on our actions we are able to work past our fears. This method may help those struggling with this new chaotic routine we find ourselves in. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with our top tips on how to apply this intervention.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   As social distancing policies are put in place, and schools and nurseries shut their doors indefinitely, keeping your toddlers entertained and active for hours on end during COVID-19 may seem daunting and at times virtually impossible! Parents and carers have been thrown into a cozy and chaotic ‘new normal’ and may wonder how they can meet the recommended three hours a day of physical activity for under-fives who are walking. But do not panic, the Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help make sure you have plenty of ideas to keep your toddler happy and entertained whilst encouraging physical activity.