chapter
Introduction
ByPETER J. COOPER, ALAN STEIN
Pages 6

Feeding and eating serve a range of biological, psychological and social functions in the life of the developing child. The biological function is clearly the most basic in that the child requires adequate nutrition not only to survive but to thrive physically and mentally. The psychological functions have received considerable attention. For example, it has been argued that even the timing of the first feed after the infant's delivery is significant: if this occurs soon after the birth while the child is in an alert state, breastfeeding is likely to go particularly well (MacKeith and Wood, 1977). Psychoanalytic theorists have stressed the importance of early oral experiences in the child's development of gratification and frustration; and authors from many intellectual traditions have argued for the emotional benefit of breastfeeding over bottlefeeding in the child's early development. Whatever the merits of these arguments there is no doubt that early feeding is important to the psychological development of infants since much of the early interaction between the baby and its mother and other caretakers centres on feeding. Indeed, feeding is essentially concerned with nurturance and, as such, is of fundamental significance to the child's experience of the world and his or her place in it. Feeding and eating also play an important role in the social life of the child. Meals are usually timed when the family is together and are the focus of much of family life. Furthermore, much social interaction outside the family occurs during mealtimes and this context therefore serves a wider socialising function.