Development of Feeding Skills (12 months and older)
This blog will highlight the developmental phases regarding oral motor development, taste and texture development, and food preference from 12 months of age to the toddler stage.
6 months – 12 months
Babies typically show signs of readiness to eat around 6 months of age. Between 6 months and 12 months, you may offer your baby a variety of food textures – pureed and/or soft and lumpy. Gagging on food is a typical response as the baby is learning what is safe. Self-feeding should begin between 4 and 11 months, which may include picking up food with hands, messy play with food, and interest in holding own spoon.
Babies typically recognize food by sight, smell, and taste by 12 months of age. Additionally, they should begin to communicate their wants and needs (i.e., when they want food) using words and gestures. After months of practice, a baby should be able to tolerate a variety of textures with less gagging on foods. Children with sensory differences may take longer to eliminate the gag reflex.
A baby may begin to express disinterest in some foods, which may be rejected on sight. Disliked food that is touching or even hiding in their liked foods may lead to the entire plate/meal being rejected. It is typical for a child to experience fear of new foods around 14 months of age and peak around 20 months. This phase should gradually diminish by 8 years old.
15 months – 18 months
Self-feeding should begin between 4 and 11 months and mastered around 15 – 18 months. They should be able to bite through harder foods if teeth are present and demonstrate a vertical chew with appropriate manipulation of food in their mouth.
18 – 24 months
Your baby should be able to chew and eat most foods.
The following is a list of characteristics of a baby who may require a feeding evaluation from a trained pediatric feeding therapist.
- Grazing between scheduled mealtimes
- Refusal to eat, drink or swallow certain food textures
- Needs distraction to eat such as screen time
- Needs excessive praise/threats/bribes to eat
- Difficulty chewing age-appropriate foods
- Unable to eat in new or unfamiliar situations
PFD impacts 1 in 37 children under the age of 5 in the United States.
A feeding questionnaire from Feeding Matters can be found here: https://questionnaire.feedingmatters.org/questionnaire to help identify if your child may need intervention. Talk to your pediatrician about your concern with your child’s feeding skills. Call Sidekick Therapy Partners to schedule an evaluation with our feeding therapists.
Samantha Shaffer M.S., CCC-SLP