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Feeding Milestones for Babies and Toddlers

As much as I wish I could be a stay at home mom, professional blog writer, or professional baker…my day job is actually as a Speech Language Pathologist! It’s a job that I absolutely love (how lucky am I to do something I love every day?!). One of the areas that I deal with as part of my job is feeding difficulties. Recently on my Facebook page, I posted about my frustration in seeing so many Caribbean babies getting cereal in their bottles. This opened up a plethora of questions about feeding milestones, what to do/not to do when transitioning to solids etc. I thought why not turn these feeding questions into a blog post! When I started to put together all of the information I realized what an exceedingly long blog post it would end up being…so in the interest of space and time I’ve decided to break it up into different sections. This being the first of several posts regarding feeding.

Like all things – we should start with the basics! When you know what the timeline of feeding transition is from birth through toddlerhood, it’s easier for you to pinpoint the area that your little one may be having the most difficulties.

O-3 Months
– Babies should be solely breast and/or bottle fed. There are oral reflexes in place for suckling and swallowing.
– It is important that during this time baby establishes an appropriate latch.
– Force feeding baby to drink X amount of ounces should be discouraged.
– Follow the baby’s lead on when he/she demonstrates signs of being full.
– Bottles should never be squeezed, nor nipples cut to encourage the baby to drink more or to drink faster.

4-6 Months
– Babies begin to suck and are no longer suckling.
– Breast/bottle feeding is no longer automatic, it begins to become voluntary.
– Babies begin to reach for bottle or spoon when hungry. May also be able to put hands on bottle, and some may even be able to hold bottle at this age.
– If your baby demonstrates signs of readiness, he/she may begin to take pureed food from a spoon.
This is the age range where babies begin to demonstrate signs of being ready for solid food, however the Cayman Islands Children’s Health Task Force does not recommend solid foods until 6 months of age (unless otherwise advised by the child’s primary paediatrician).

6-9 Months
– Babies should be able to open their mouths and wait for the spoon to enter.
– Many babies can drink from a straw at 9 months. Babies are also ready to transition to sippy cup or preferably, regular cup at this time. This is the perfect time to start bottle weaning!
– By now, a munch pattern using an up/down motion should be observed during meals, however a rotary chew (think of a cow chewing on cud) may begin to develop at this age.
– Baby should quickly and efficiently remove food from a spoon using their top and bottom lips and should also lean their head forward to accept the spoon.
– Babies should be able to hold their bottle or cup in both hands.
– Baby should be able to demonstrate stable head control in a sitting position(no head bobbing) and stable trunk control for independent sitting.

10-12 Months
– At this age, feel free to shift foods from pureed to finger food textures.
– Further development of grasping patterns should also be observed.
– Oral motor skills are also being developed. Your little one may be learning to move his/tongue from side to side, may be starting to munch and may also begin biting (not just on food either!).
– Your baby may also begin seeking independence at this age and may not want you to feed him/her any more.
– Your baby may begin to demonstrate some taste preference shifts and may reject “baby food” flavours. This is the perfect age to begin exposing your baby to the family pot and allowing him/her to explore the flavours and textures that the family enjoys.

13-15 Months
– At this age, your toddler’s biting skills continue to develop. Cognitively, toddlers may also try biting objects or people.
– Chewing should be demonstrated (with or without teeth), although not fully mastered.
– Toddlers should be able to bite through a hard cookie.
– Chopped table food should continue to be provided.
– Bottle use should be discontinued. Cup and/or straw use only at this age. Your toddler should be fully weaned from the bottle by 15 months (ideally).
– At this age, toddlers typically engage in “co-feeding” with their caregiver (i.e. while the toddler is self-feeding, caregiver is also putting food in their mouths in between)
– Toddlers typically can grasp a spoon with their hand and will make attempts to bring it to their mouths, although they may have difficulties with keeping the food on the spoon.
– Toddlers should be able to hold their cup with 2 hands.

16-18 Months
– At this age, your toddler should tolerate more challenging foods that require chewing, such as proteins and vegetables.
– By 18 months most toddlers should be able to chew with their mouths closed (although they often do not).
– At this age your toddler should not have large amounts of food or liquid leaking or spilling from his/her mouth during mealtimes.
– Your toddler should be an efficient finger feeder at this time.
– Your toddler will make attempts to assert their independence during mealtimes and will enjoy practicing using their spoon/fork (although still not great about keeping a lot of it on the spoon still).

Two Years Old
– By age 2, your toddler should be able to manage any type of food he/she likes.
– He/she should be drinking from a regular cup with very little spilling.
– He/she should also be able to feed himself/herself fairly well with a spoon or fork.
– Some “fine tuning” will continue over the next few years.

I hope you find this milestone list useful and informative! Stay tuned for my subsequent posts dealing with feeding, as I’ll be talking about the different stages of baby foods, red flags of picky eating and feeding “do’s” and “don’ts”

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy