What To Expect: Your Child’s Feeding Development


Milestones for Children Ages Birth to 3 Years

At what age do most babies open their mouth for a spoon? Drink from a cup? Feed themselves with their fingers? These are all examples of feeding and swallowing milestones.

Many parents have questions about how well their child is eating and drinking. By learning the feeding and swallowing milestones to look for, families can better understand what’s typical as their child grows—and when they may need professional help for a potential feeding or swallowing problem.

Developmental milestones are behaviors or skills that are typical within an age range. Milestones provide parents and caregivers with a roadmap of what to expect during their child’s early years of life. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recently published new feeding and swallowing milestones for children ages birth to 3 years. The feeding and swallowing milestones show the age ranges when a majority (at least 75%) of children have mastered each skill.

What are some other examples of feeding and swallowing milestones?

Examples of feeding and swallowing milestones include the following:

  • Turns head toward nipple and opens mouth (birth to 3 months).
  • Brings hands to breast or bottle (4 to 6 months).
  • Brings food to mouth with hands and starts to feed self (6 to 9 months).
  • Begins chewing food on both sides of mouth—called “rotary chewing” (9 to 12 months).
  • Drinks from a sippy cup without help; can drink from an open cup with some spilling (12 to 18 months).
  • Chews all foods, including those with tougher textures, without gagging or choking (2 to 3 years).

A complete list of feeding and swallowing milestones by age is available on ASHA’s Developmental Milestones webpage.

Should I be concerned if my child isn’t meeting these milestones?

If a child isn’t meeting one milestone in an age range, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the child needs an evaluation.

However, if a child lacks several feeding skills, is not progressing in their skills, or is losing skills that they once had, then ASHA encourages families to consult their pediatrician and visit an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist. Families should also pay attention to the warning signs of a feeding or swallowing disorder.

Speech-language pathologists work with people who have problems with speech, language, thinking, and swallowing. Look for a speech-language pathologist who specializes in feeding and swallowing. A searchable database of these professionals is available at www.asha.org/profind. Your child’s pediatrician may have a recommendation for a local professional. Families can also contact their state’s Early Intervention program.

How can I support my child’s feeding and swallowing development at home?

Below are some general tips for supporting your child’s feeding and swallowing development at home:

  • Have your child try a new food many times—this gives them the chance to decide if they like it.
  • Serve a variety of foods to your child. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t like it the first few times.
  • Cook with your child. Share new smells and tastes. Cooking together can make tasting new foods exciting when your child knows that they helped to prepare it!
  • Build on what your child already likes to eat by taking food one step further. For example, if they like chicken nuggets, try a chicken patty.
  • Ask your child to try new foods, but don’t bribe or push your child too much. Pushing can cause your child to have negative associations with the act of eating—or with food in general.
  • Help your child learn their hunger and fullness cues. This creates healthy eating habits and a long-term positive relationship with food.

More tips by age range are available on ASHA’s Developmental Milestones webpage.

Where can I find more information?

Visit ASHA’s Developmental Milestones webpage for complete checklists of feeding milestones between birth and 3 years. More information on feeding and swallowing problems in children can be found from ASHA on its website as well.

To connect with help, contact your state’s Early Intervention program to schedule an evaluation. A searchable database of speech-language pathologists nationwide is available at www.asha.org/profind.

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