Infant Appetite: From Cries to Cues and Responsive Feeding

  • Marion M. HetheringtonEmail author
Living reference work entry


Infants are adept at communicating hunger, appetite, and satiation. While one cannot really “know” what infants are attempting to communicate, it can be assumed that crying after some hours of food deprivation relates to hunger, that decreased interest in feeding relates to satiation, and that aversive facial expressions in response to a new food reflect dislike. So at the very least, it can be said that infants express fundamental needs as well as their likes and dislikes of specific foods. For infant communication to be effective, caregivers should be able to understand infant cues, and for this to happen reliably, communication cues should be easily discernible, replicable, and responsive to changes in need state (Hetherington, Physiol Behav 176:117–124, 2017). For example, appetite signals should decline as the meal progresses, and expressions of liking and wanting should depend, in part, on the foods offered. For responsive feeding to take place then, caregivers must be able to recognize and respond to infant appetite cues and so provide appropriate nourishment and care to their infants. In this chapter progression from milk to solid food feeding and the infant’s ability to self-regulate energy intake will be considered. The facial expressions and overt behaviors infants use to communicate with caregivers about their interest and willingness to eat will be characterized. Finally, sensitivity to the ways in which infants communicate hunger, appetite, and satiation will be discussed.


Appetite Food intake Facial expression Gesture Vocalization Gaze Responsive feeding Infancy Development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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