Abstract In early infancy, the method of feeding from either the breast or the bottle results in the establishment of different patterns of meal size across the day. In breast-fed infants the change in size of meals across the 24 hr period is evidence for the acquisition of an anticipatory pattern of intake which is unlikely to occur in bottle-fed infants because of restrictions in the amount of milk offered at each meal. Other measures of behaviour within feeds support the development of a baby-controlled style of feeding in breast-fed infants compared with a mother-controlled feeding style in the bottle-fed infant. Associated with these patterns of intake are variations in the perceived hunger of infants by their mothers, with hunger variation being recognized with greater frequency in females than in males. In older infants the establishment of cultural rules of eating and the use of parental strategies to manipulate eating in children provide further evidence for the importance of learning in the establishment of early feeding behaviour.