Feeding Skills Developmental Milestones for Infants and Toddlers

CME WebsitesChild Development, Infants 3 - 12 Months, Toddlers 12 - 36 Months

Feeding your baby is one of the most important aspects of child care.  When it does not work as you expect or is a stressful event, it can be of great concern. Here are some developmental milestones to look for at this age:

Feeding Skills at 4 – 6 Months

  • Baby will feed in semi-reclined position
  • Visually recognizes bottle
  • Continues to bring hands and toys/objects to mouth
  • Uses hands to pat bottle/breast during feeding
  • Begins to eat puree/smooth creamy foods by sucking food from a spoon
  • Child should demonstrate a good coordination of suck and swallow
  • By 6 months, child will swallow strained foods
  • Recognizes the bottle or breast

Feeding Skills at 6 – 8 Months

  • Eating in more upright positions
  • Tongue can lateralize/move toward cheeks
  • Mouthing and munching spoon, toys and biter biscuits
  • Holds own bottle
  • Drinking from a cup held for child
  • Eating mashed, soft table foods (potatoes, carrots, fruits, etc.) with creamy, lumpy texture
  • Drooling less except for teething
  • Bite and release observed
  • Moves food around in mouth using tongue, bites and chews toys

Feeding Skills at 8 – 12 Months

  • Sitting upright during meals
  • Biting and chewing foods voluntarily
  • Eating finger foods with pureed meats
  • Meats should stay one consistency below vegetables and fruit child is eating
  • Controlled sustained bite
  • Developing a rotary chew pattern
  • Finger feeds self
  • Holds spoon during meals
  • Moves food around in mouth using tongue, bites and chews toys
  • Finger feeds self, chews food

Feeding Skills at 12 – 18 Months

  • Eating table foods, but meat chopped/cut up very small
  • Lips closed during chewing
  • Appetite decreases during this time resulting in food refusal occasionally
  • Brings a spoon to mouth and turns spoon over
  • Holds and drinks from a cup with some spills
  • Appetite decreases, may refuse food
  • Scoops food with spoon, brings food to mouth

Feeding Skills at 18 – 24 Months

  • Chewing with rotary jaw movements
  • Distinguishes between food and non-food items
  • Gives up bottle
  • Gives empty bowl or dish to an adult
  • Scooping foods to feed self, with some spills
  • Plays/explores foods with hands
  • Holds small cups with one hand
  • Plays with food
  • Knows the difference between food and non-food items
  • Transitions to a cup
  • Develops clear food preferences

Feeding Skills at 24 – 30 Months

  • Holds spoon between fingers, palm up
  • May have definite food likes and dislikes
  • Often the time ‘picky eater’ shows up
  • Unwraps food
  • Holds spoon
  • Washes hands
  • May show dislike and refuse certain foods

Feeding Skills at 30 – 36 Months

  • Uses a fork to feed self
  • Wipes mouth with napkin
  • May reject many foods due to slower rate of growth and more mature sense of taste
  • Attempts to serve self at table with spills
  • Pours liquids from small containers