I probably should have written this post years ago, as a resource for parents, but I have to admit I’ve been a bit hesitant. Each child develops so uniquely and just because they may be late hitting a milestone, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is cause for alarm. For various reasons, it isn’t unusual for a child to be a little late with mastering a new skill. I would encourage you not to use this as a checklist, but as a guide for what types of things you should be looking for your child to be doing next. I will be going over all areas of feeding, from when your bambino should be feeding themselves, to how and when they should be chewing foods. These milestones are based on my education and professional opinion as a pediatric occupational therapist. Please remember that if your child was born prematurely or has a diagnosis, these milestones are likely to be later.
*I have provided links throughout to previous posts/articles which outline the particular milestone in detail with strategies to help your child achieve that particular skill.
- Baby’s eat very often during this time, especially breast fed babies. Meals can be as close as 1.5 hours apart early in infancy and move to 2-3 hours apart as they get older.
4-6 Months: Starts to accept pureed baby foods and cereals.
- It is important not to rush this even though it can be very exciting to start feeding your baby. Some signs that your baby is ready is that they are able to sit up in their high chair without being reclined (never spoon feed in a reclined position as in a car seat), they seem interested in what you are eating, and opening their mouth for a spoon. Although I don’t want you to rush this, it is important that you start by 7 months, if you child doesn’t seem ready, definitely talk about it with your pediatrician.
- If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that I’m not the biggest fan of the sippy cup (find out why in the link further down under straw drinking), but it may have a time and a place. Offering the sippy cup at meals in this age range is a good idea because it helps them associate drinking from something other than the bottle. Two of my kids used a sippy cup for a short time around this age, and drank water from it.
6-12 Months: Drinks from an open cup with help.
- Drinking from a small open cup is a wonderful skill for a baby to learn, although many parents don’t think to try because it is so messy and seems a bit advanced. At first, parents will hold a small plastic cup and try some small sips. If your baby is coughing and choking a lot they probably aren’t ready, but some occasional coughing is normal.
7-9 Months: Begins to accept table foods and chews foods with an up/down motion.
- Babies will munch up and down on those first finger foods. Some gagging and coughing is normal. If it happens excessively, take your time and push back trying a bit. If you are getting towards the 10-11 month mark with no progress, I highly recommend talking to your doctor or looking into an eval (see more info on this at the end of the post).
8-11 Months: Uses a pincer grasp to pick up table foods.
- Babies will first use their whole hand to pick up foods and then, within this time frame, they will begin to use their index finger and thumb to pick up individual pieces of food more efficiently.
9-18 months: Drinks from a straw.
- It may sound shocking that a baby is able to drink from a straw, but they are capable of learning.
- Read How to Teach Your Baby to Drink from a Straw for more details on the how to teach your child to drink from a straw, as well as the benefits of straw drinking.
9-12 Months: No longer uses a pacifier.
- Okay so this isn’t exactly feeding related, but I often get this question so I wanted to add it here. Obviously, a lot of kids go past this marker, but if you take it away in this time frame, the transition is often easier and you decrease the risk of cavities and malformed dentition.
- Even though your child may be able to take bites, there will likely be many foods that will need to be cut up in bite sized pieces for the next 3-6 months.
11-15 months: Chews a variety of foods using a rotary chew.
- Unless you are looking for this you may miss it, but it is an important milestone because rotary chewing is needed for harder foods and more efficient chewing. You will notice your child’s jaw moving in a circular motion instead of just up and down.
11-13 Months: Weaned from baby food.
- It can be difficult to let go of the security that baby food brings, but if your child is doing well with table foods it is time to let it go!
- Get a Guide to Toddler Portion Sizes here if you’re worried about how much your baby is eating.
11-15 Months: Weaned from a bottle.
- Many kids go way past this range, but this is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for a variety of reasons. If you’re breastfeeding there are no recommendations for stopping particularly, but the AAP recommends nursing for 1 year and the World Health Organization recommends at least 2 years. Obviously, this is a personal decision.
12-18 Months: Drinks from an open cup independently.
- Again, this really depends on how much opportunity the child has been given to practice. Although it can be messy, trying an open cup a few times a week while your child is in the high chair will promote his eating and speech skills.
15-24 Months: Uses spoon and fork to independently feed themselves.
- Toddlers may be using a spoon before this age if they have been given an ample chance to practice. However, they may not be proficient and need some occasional help. This skill has a wide age range because some parents would like to avoid the messy eating and hold off on trying until they are a bit older. By 2 years, kids should be totally independent in feeding themselves.
- Get the guide to your child’s Self-Feeding and learn how to help them learn to use utensils and their fingers to eat.
24+ Months: Can safely eat all foods.
- By 24 months, most toddlers will be able to manage any type food. Of course, you will still want to avoid obvious choking hazards such as whole grapes, popcorn, and whole hot dogs.
- Get a plan to prevent the Picky Eater Toddler in your home. I can’t tell you how many families over the years I’ve helped that had picky eating begin around 1-2 years of age. While that’s normal, it isn’t for it to continue past 4-5 years of age. This plan will give you the tools you need to keep your toddler on track.
If it seems your child is very far behind on several of these milestones and/or your instincts are telling you that you need some help, than by all means talk to your child’s doctor. If you aren’t comfortable with the answer they give you or you are ready to get some definitive answers, then I would encourage you to schedule a free in-state (need to live in the USA for this) early intervention evaluation that is completed in your home, or set up a private evaluation through your local children’s hospital, outpatient facilities, or private clinic. With the latter, contact your insurance ahead of time to make sure you understand everything that is covered.
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