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.
- Get tips for helping babies with acid reflux.
- Learn how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle.
- Find out how to handle your baby gagging on a bottle.
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.
- Get a full tutorial on how to give your baby their first meal.
- Get a feeding schedule for 6-7 month olds.
- Learn How to Make Your Own Baby Food.
- Are you considering Baby Led Weaning (BLW)? Get the Pros and Cons of BLW.
- 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.
- Find a tutorial on how to teach your baby to drink from an open cup here (scroll to the middle of the post to find it).
- Learn why it’s important to Let Your Baby Get Messy at meals (the answer might surprise you!)
6-12 Months: Able to wean from a pacifier
- While many babies wean from a pacifier on their own or hold onto it for dear life through toddler-hood, you may want to consider pacifier weaning now because it may be the easiest time to transition off of that binky.
- Get a step by step guide for how and when to get rid of the binky.
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).
- Get part 1 of How to Introduce Finger Foods to your baby
- Get part 2 of Transitioning to Table foods
- Get inspired with a Mega List of Finger Food Ideas and Meal Ideas for your baby
- Get the complete guide to Baby Gagging, with tips to overcome it
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.
- Read about how, when, and why in How to Wean Baby from Bottle.
- Read about Stopping Breastfeeding if you’re ready (or pin it for later).
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.
Want a free printable?
I’ve got one for you! Get How to Improve Your Child’s Eating in 9 Steps. This simple, but essential guide will give you my tips for raising kids to have a healthy eating habits. Get it in your email here and I’ll send it right to your inbox.
Did you pin this?
Don’t forget, you might want to check it out again!
My baby just turned 11 months old, but he uses his whole hand to grab things not pincer grasp. When I feed him puree, he will eat puree but he doesn’t like self feeding. He can grab the whole strawberry and eat it. He will play with baby finger food/puffs but he doesn’t put it into his mouth. What should I do?
Hi Kay! Thanks for reaching out! Keep practicing with those motor skills! Demonstrate to him how to pick up foods using pincer grasp, especially with those small bite-sized pieces. Offering him puffs or cut up pieces of fruit can help teach him how to pick those tiny pieces up using his pincer grasp. Try practicing with baby utensils too! You can pre-load a baby spoon with some food and set it on his tray in front of him, allowing him to pick up the spoon and bring it to his mouth. Practice, consistency, and patience! Hope this helps!
Thank you for the tips! Usually how long will baby learns the new skill? If he doesn’t learn it within the time frame, should I bring him to see feeding therapist? I tried to show my baby how to use pincer grasp, but he is inpatient and want to do other thing instead of learning… 🙁
Hi there! For feeding themselves independently, this should be learned by 15-24 months. For pincer grasp specifically, baby should have this skill learned by 1 year. Still struggling? Try some pincer grasp activities, like placing 1 small puff in each section of an empty egg carton or ice cube tray (this helps to develop the pincer grasp because they can’t use their whole hand)! If you’re concerned, always reach out to your pediatrician. Hope that helps!
Alisha , thanks for this post
I am on OTist & my daughter is 20.5 months old and doesn’t want to eat much and hence is fairly thin.
1) she likes to only self feed , uses spoon and tries using fork sometimes
2) loves playing with food and barely eats quantities
3) I can feed her only through distractions – I won’t lie I have stuffed morsels when I though she wasn’t eating and nutrition / weight was compromised
4) prefers ,fruit , crackers ,rice , noodle , raisins, condiments ,sometimes chicken,fish, doesn’t like bread or roti or chewier foods
3) I have been observing her and she chews a little and then swallows
4) uses Sippy cups a lot , I am trying straw training now
5) extremely poor in meal quantities
Extremely worried as a parent ,without Sippy cups or me force feeding she is unable to completely feed
So glad you reached out! We know how hard it is when your child isn’t eating well! I’d start with trying to get her to play with and touch different foods, you can do this outside of mealtimes. But this can help with interest on the foods as well! We do have a free workshop that we’d recommend for some helpful strategies in moving forward with working on the picky eating. You can save your seat HERE
This was a good read! It can be hard to know when everyone else that age is at a different stage!
My son is 23 month. Never touched the food. Never pick up any thing from floor till now. He is still on puree food. Otherwise he is active. What to do. Very much worried
Thanks for reaching out to us, we know how hard this can be! I’d first start by working on just letting him play and touch the food (you can do this outside of mealtimes) to work on the touching part as that is the first step in eating. We do also have a free workshop that walks you through some great first steps to take to work towards eating table foods. You can save your seat HERE
my son is 10 months. he not a big eater i ve tried puree, mashed and finger food. he takes the first few bited open his mouth even feed himself . but never ate more than few bites.( max 1 table spoon banana or yougurt) he wants to be breastfed after eating.
he doesn t take the bottle. we ve been using the straw cup with water. he mostly play with it drink to much and cough. how can i put him on a schedule and increase his feeding. note i m gonna go back to work in a couple of months.
I’d definitely head to how to transition to table foods, this gives some clear and concrete steps that I think will be really helpful, but I’d also mention this to your doctor, he may benefit from some feeding therapy or a little more help.