The American Speech-Language Association states that “speech-language pathologists” (SLP) play a primary role in the evaluation and treatment of infants, children, and adults with swallowing and feeding disorders (ASHA, 2002). SLPs have knowledge about normal anatomy and physiology with respect to respiration, swallowing, and speech. Therefore it is appropriate for SLPs to play a role in feeding.

Birth – 4 months

  • Sucks fingers when near the mouth
  • Places hands on the bottle during feeding
  • Recognizes a nipple or bottle
  • Pats a bottle with one or both hands

5 – 6 months

  • Holds a bottle independently with one or both hands
  • Mouths and gums solid foods
  • Opens mouth when a spoon is presented

6 – 9 months

  • Feed themselves finger foods
  • Drinks from a cup held by an adult – may experience some loss of liquids
  • Reaches for a spoon when presented

9 – 12 months 

  • Holds soft foods in their mouth
  • Eats lumpy, mashed food
  • Chews using a rotary jaw moving action (emerging)

12 – 18 months

  • Grasps a spoon with a full hand
  • Brings a full spoon to mouth, turning spoon en route
  • Begins to drink through a straw
  • Holds a cup with two hands
  • Drinks with multiple swallows; about 4-5 swallows

18 – 24 months

  • Transitions from bottle to a regular cup
  • Scoops food with a spoon and brings to mouth with spillage
  • Drinks from a cup with spillage
  • Lip closure with swallows
  • Self-feeds
  • Chews a broad range of food
  • Has precise up/down tongue movement

24 – 36 months

  • Bites through a variety of food thicknesses
  • Brings a spoon/fork to mouth and able to self feeds with little spillage
  • Holds a small open cup in one hand with little spillage
  • Chews with lips closed
  • Chews using a stable rotary jaw action.