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Teach your child to eat with love, patience, and good humor

Generic RCEL (USAID Advancing Nutrition | 2021)
Teach your child to eat with love, patience, and good humor

Key Messages

Key Messages

  • Practice responsive care during feeding times with your child to show support and love. This means listening and watching for cues that your child is hungry or full and responding appropriately to those cues.
  • Responsive feeding helps make feeding a time of love and learning. It helps you and your child develop a strong bond and encourages good eating habits in your child as she grows.

Practical Tips

All children:

  • Minimize distractions during mealtimes. Sit facing your child so you can focus on each other and on eating.
  • Pay attention to your child’s cues of hunger and fullness to be sure she is getting enough food but you are not overfeeding her. Never force a child to eat and never use food as a reward.
  • Be patient and give your child time to eat. If your child shows signs of fullness, slow down or pause. Try offering another bite after a minute or two. End the feeding if he again indicates he is full.

Cues your baby is hungry

  • Wakes and tosses; sucks on fist (before 3 months); cries or fusses

Cues your baby is full

  • Closes mouth or lips shut; turns head away; decreases or stops sucking; spits out the nipple or falls asleep when full

Cues your child is hungry

  • Opens mouth while feeding to show wanting more; smiles, gazes at caregiver, or coos during feeding to show wanting more; moves head toward food or tries to swipe food toward mouth; reaches or points for spoon or food

Cues your child is full

  • Slows down or stops eating; pushes food away; shakes head to say ‘‘no more’’


Birth up to 6 months:

  • Breast milk is all your baby needs for nutrition up to 6 months of age. Breastfeeding also stimulates loving feelings between mother and baby. It helps your baby to feel safe and comforted.
  • During breastfeeding, a baby is learning how to control his appetite and soothe himself. He is determining how much milk he needs and how much he wants to suck to comfort himself.


6 up to 9 months:

  • Slowly move the food in front of your baby’s eyes. When she begins to follow and reach for the food, respond by offering the food to eat.


9 up to 12 months:

  • Your baby may be interested in starting to use utensils or drinking water from a clean, open cup. Put some food on a spoon and let her try to feed herself. Give her a small cup with just a little bit of water to start and help her hold it. There will be spills, but encourage her. She will get better with practice!


12 up to 24 months:

  • You can start to provide small, cut-up bites of family foods for your child, as his chewing skills are stronger now. Encourage him to feed himself—he will get better and better at coordinating how to scoop up food and bring it to his mouth.


CLOSE by asking the caregiver to demonstrate or explain to you what they will do with their child.