Infant Feeding

mother feeding child

The Infant Feeding group is one of three groups which form our Human Appetite Research Unit (HARU) at the University of Leeds. This group conducts research in order to understand the psychological processes involved in a number of aspects of infant feeding including hunger, appetite, food preference and satiation.

Areas of focus for the group are:

  • Identifying gene-environment risk factors for obesity in childhood
  • Characterising hunger, appetite and satiation cues in infancy
  • Understanding infant communication through facial expressions, gesture, gaze and gross bodily movements
  • The development of food preferences in pre-school children
  • The application of experiential learning for vegetable liking and intake in early life
  • The effects of portion control in pre-school and school age children

The research group is led by Professor Marion Hetherington and the team consists of Dr Pam Birtill (Associate Professor) and Dr Alison Fildes (UAF, co-Director of the GEMINI project) with links to Dr Netalie Shloim (School of Healthcare), Dr Charlotte Evans (Food Science) and Dr Tang Tang (School of Design).

Ongoing Projects

Research on infant feeding has been funded by the EU in the following projects:

  • Marie Curie Industry Academic Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) FP7 230637 “V is for Vegetable: Applying learning theory to increase liking and intake of vegetables”. PI with Dr Jo Cecil, University of St Andrews, Dr Diane Jackson, University of Aberdeen and Danone Medical and Baby Nutrition.
  • EU FP7 Collaborative Project (KBBE-2009-2-1-01: Determinants of food habit formation /breaking) Determining factors and critical periods in food Habit formation and breaking in Early childhood: a multidisciplinary approach (HabEat).  Coordinated by Dr Sylvie Issanchou, INRA, Dijon.

Research on portion size has been funded through the BBSRC Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC) initiative (Downsizing: using environmental cues to acquire healthy portion control in children, adolescents and their families).

Research on gene-environment interactions in obesity risk has been funded through an initial investment by Cancer Research UK for the GEMINI Health and development in twins cohort. Since its initial inception in 2008 by Professor Jane Wardle at UCL, projects have been funded by various sources and it is currently co-directed by Dr Clare Llewellyn (UCL) and Dr Alison Fildes  (Leeds).

Facilities and Resources

The School of Psychology has a wide range of specialised facilities and resources available for research projects.


Dr Pam Birtill
Dr Alison Fildes 
Professor Marion Hetherington