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Essential Feeding Milestones in Early Childhood

Jun 8, 2024

Feeding milestones are some of the best milestones because food, drinks, and the ability to eat have a way of connecting us all together. From family functions to morning breakfast, we count on the feeding skills that we learned as a wee tyke. We’re taking a close look at developmental feeding milestones as groundbreaking achievements made by your little one. Here comes a gold medal!


Understanding Pediatric Feeding Development

Before we hop into baby feeding milestones, it’s important to know all that feeding encompasses. Feeding includes eating and drinking, but it’s a bit more too. As we eat to take in that nutrition, we use muscles to chew, swallow, and digest. These mechanisms are included in this broader definition of feeding. Feeding milestones happen rather distinctly in the first 18 months of life. There are plenty of achievements that are sure to leave a mama feeling proud.


First Feeding Milestones: 4-6 Month Feeding Development

Very early in life, your baby relies on formula or breastmilk for proper nutrition. Around the 4-6 month mark, major feeding milestone magic begins to happen, especially in terms of when to introduce solid foods. Your little one will sit up in their high chair and show interest in food around this time. This is provided that they have good head control and your healthcare provider gives the okay. Baby’s first solid food experience happens in the form of infant cereals and puree. Try these puree foods for 4-6 month-olds. For a smooth transition too, begin and end these puree meals with breastmilk or formula. Be sure to remember that all babies are different in hitting feeding milestones. Some may begin at 4 months while others at 6 months. Be patient with your little one as they explore food in their own way.


Expanding Tastes: 8-9 Month Feeding Milestones

As your baby gets familiar with purees, you’ll be able to introduce table foods that are either mashed or cut into tiny pieces. You’ll also experiment more with variety in a food’s texture and shape. Even still, the majority of nutrition is still coming from formula and breastmilk. Another major feeding milestone to look forward to around this time is the use of open cups and straws. A word to the wise on sippy cups though. It turns out that open cups and straws and cups are better for a variety of reasons such as better swallowing development.


Encouraging Independence: 10-12 Month Self-Feeding Milestones

Your baby is chewing, biting, and moving their jaw a lot more now that they are in this age range. Perhaps one of the most exciting moments is when your baby shows signs of self-feeding by finger feeding, particularly around age 1. Baby will also eat soft veggies and fruits as an added variety to their food repertoire. Remember that at any age, food and drink messes happen. Although a bit chaotic, these messes are a part of healthy development as your child explores and learns about food.


Exploring New Foods: 13-18 Month Feeding Development

Get excited about this feeding milestone. From around 12 months and beyond, your little one will be eating most foods. They can use an open cup without help from mom and dad too. Although your child is open to the vast world of food variety, there are a few foods to avoid including nuts, popcorn, hotdogs, peanut butter chunks, cheese chunks, meat chunks, whole grapes, and sticky foods like hard candy. These foods can become a choking hazard for one still developing their feeding skills. For a lot of food varieties though, it’s game on!


Identifying and Addressing Feeding Milestone Problems

Difficulties can get in the way of your child reaching important feeding milestones. If you notice your little one spitting, coughing, choking, gagging, leaking food/liquid, or vomiting frequently at mealtime, it’s time to get help as something bigger is likely going on. You may even notice your little one blocking or pushing food away that has a specific texture and gets fussy or irritable during mealtimes. Eating food should be an enjoyable experience for your little one and you. When it’s not, feeding therapy can be a big help to get your little one eating well and healthily.


Feeding therapy can help make mealtime a happy time! Learn about our team of Feeding Therapists and how they can help your kiddo’s eating journey.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2021 and has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information for parents and caregivers.