Typical Development of Feeding Skills (0 to 3 years old)
Newborn to 1 Month
• Takes 2-4 ounces of liquid per feeding; 6 or more feedings per day
• Uses a suckling or sucking pattern; loses some liquid
• Swallows with suckle-swallow pattern; tongue may protrude slightly through lips with extension/retraction movement (suckle reflex and tongue thrust reflex)
• Sequences two or more sucks before pausing to swallow
3 Months- 4 Months
• Takes 4-7 ounces of liquid; 4-6 feedings per day
• Sequences 20 or more sucks; swallowing follows sucking with no discernable pauses when hungry; good coordination of suck/swallow/breathe sequence.
• 4 months: loss of sucking reflex; sucking becomes an intentional act; loss of tongue thrust reflex—increases ability to accept spoon-fed cereal or smooth puree.
5 to 6 months
• Cereals and pureed foods; liquids
• Takes 9 to 10 ounces of food or liquid per feeding; 4-6 feeding per day
• Uses primitive phasic bite-release pattern on soft cookie; biting rhythm is
regular with no controlled, sustained bite; may revert to sucking cookie instead of
• May use intermittent up/down
7 to 8 months
• Thicker pureed foods at 7 months; ground or junior foods and mashed table
foods at 8 months
• Visually or tactilely recognizes spoon; jaw quiets and remains in stable, open
position until spoon enters mouth; tongue relaxes to accept spoon.
• Long sequences of sucking, swallowing, and breathing. With cup drinking may have
continuous sucks followed by uncoordinated swallowing (much liquid lost). Larger
mouthfuls by cup may result in coughing or choking.
• Tongue moves up and down in a munching pattern; tongue shows more
lateralization with a gross rolling movement or simple horizontal shift when food
is placed on the side biting surfaces.
9 to 12 months
• Longer sequences of continuous sucks with cup drinking; still has difficulty
coordinating sucking, swallowing, and breathing with cup drinking.
• Can hold a soft cookie between teeth without biting all the way through (graded
bite); may alternate this holding pattern with phasic bite pattern.
• Vertical jaw movements in chewing with variations in up/down movement and
speed. Uses diagonal rotary movements as the tongue moves from the center of
the mouth to the side for chewing.
• Uses lateral tongue movements when food is placed on side of mouth; begins to
transfer food from center of tongue to side.
• 10 months: lips move to remove food from spoon.
• Independent finger feeding
12 to 14 months
• liquids and ground, mashed, or coarsely chopped table foods (including easily
• uses a controlled bite on soft cookie; may not be able to sustain bite on hard
cookie and may revert to phasic bite or sucking
• can transfer food laterally from center of mouth to biting surfaces
• lips are active during chewing; may lose food or saliva during chewing; uses upper
teeth or gums to clean lower lip as it is drawn inward.
• swallows liquid from cup with sucking movement; may lose some liquid; swallowing
following sucking with no pause. Some coughing may occur is liquid is flowing too
15 to 18 months
• 15 months: phasic bite reflex no longer present; uses a controlled, sustained
bite; may pull head backward in slight extension to help with bite.
• 18 months: given liquids and coarsely chopped table foods (including most meats
and raw vegetables)
• Can chew with lips closed (inconsistent)—lips are closed for chewing primarily
when needed to prevent food from falling out
• Swallows solid food with easy lip closure and no loss of food or saliva
• Upper lip is closed on cup for better seal for drinking;
swallowing follows sucking with no pause; well
• Diagonal rotary chewing movements
• Upper and lower lips active during chewing and cleaning
19 to 21 months
• Uses controlled, sustained bite; opens mouth wider than necessary to bite foods
of various thicknesses.
• Swallows liquid from cup with easy lip closure; no loss of liquid
• Swallows solid foods (including combination of texture) with easy lip closure; no
loss of food
• Can transfer food from either side of mouth to other side without pausing in center
• Can internally stabilize cup without biting on edge of cup
• Able to grade opening of jaw when biting foods of different thicknesses
• Chewing movements mixture of vertical and rotary movements
24 to 36 months
• Eats the same food as the rest of the family!
• *chewing with a grinding movement does not usually occur until approximately 48 Months
Feeding and Swallowing Disorders, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association,
Morris, Suzanne Evans and Marsha Dunn Klein; Pre-Feeding Skills, Second Edition;
Therapy Skill Builders; 2000.