Adapted from “Development of Feeding Progression,” by Erin Sundseth Ross, from Pediatric Feeding Disorders: Evaluation and Treatment (2012).

While most people could tell you that babies typically start eating solids around 6 months, few understand why. Just like other areas of child development, oral feeding follows a typical progression of skills.

Prenatal: Developing babies start demonstrating sucking and swallowing movements as early as 14 weeks gestation.

Birth-3 months: Initially feeding is largely reflexive and characterized by a suckling pattern (front to back movement), but becomes volitional and transitions to a sucking pattern (up and down movement). Babies also begin bringing hands to midline and may hold mom’s breast or their bottle.

5-7 months: Baby is physically able to sit up in a high chair and support their own head and neck. Initially babies may thrust food out of their mouths. Soon they will begin using a mix of suckling and sucking to clear food from the spoon, move it backward in the oral cavity, and swallow. Tongue lateralization, or movement side to side, forms around 6 months. Tongue lateralization is important to forming cohesive balls of food for swallowing.

7-9 months: Once babies are sitting independently, they transition to finger foods. Their ability to voluntarily pick up and release objects develops around 8 months. Early chewing is typically a munching pattern. Small up and down movements of the teeth and gums are used to break down food.

10-24 months: Between 10 and 12 months rotary chewing emerges, adding a shredding movement to the vertical chewing (helpful for table foods!). Children begin to use utensils around 11 months; they are expected to use a spoon between 12 and 18 months. Efficiency with utensils continues to improve until mastered around 36 months.

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Adara Blake

Adara Blake

Adara is a speech-language pathologist and IBCLC currently living in Philadelphia. She is a proud alumna of New York University as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Adara seeks to use her clinical background in pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders to complement her lactation training, in order to better serve families who are experiencing difficulty during breastfeeding. She also has an specific interest in improving visibility and support for breastfeeding among women of color.
Adara Blake

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