Feeding skills are developmentally acquired through the process of motor learning. This means that children need to practice the skills, and they need comfortable practice opportunities given to them. In this series, we will provide information for the first year of oral motor development and how to support feeding skill development.
3-5 Months Feeding Skills: Mouthing
- Mouthing is when the baby brings items to the mouth to learn and explore.
- Is the baby ready? Infants are ready for mouthing experiences. Babies like their hands and yours but also safe textures. When infants increase hands in mouth and hold onto objects with a good grasp, they are ready. This is usually seen the most in month 4 and up.
How parents can help?? Support their posture through swaddling, side-lying, and providing physical support. Choose safe objects with different textures (bumps, smooth, soft, firm).
6-9 Months: Ready for Solids and Open Cup Drinking
- Babies are more active participants in feeding now. They are learning to open their mouth and control movement from suckling to sucking to munching.
- Is the baby ready? An infant is ready when they have good head control, control to sit or is close to sitting up alone, interest in parents’ or others’ food, increase in bringing food to mouth, the infant is leaning in for tastes, and interest/comes toward the cup. Loss of liquid is normal.
How parents can help?? Present food on flat a spoon in front of the infant. Wait for the infant to lean to in and clear the spoon. Let infants feed themselves. Be patient with the process and let the infant take the time needed. Explore empty cups and offer cups with puree or liquid.
9-12 Months: Ready for More Challenging Solids
- Babies are learning about biting and chewing AND coordinating grips and utensil purpose.
- Is the baby ready? Baby is ready if they are using different grasps and can feed self simple finger foods.
How parents can help?? Offer utensils (shorter handled for the baby) and a variety of purees, soft solids, or crumbs. Use a feeder to assist baby in breaking off bites. Offer easy and challenging foods, such as strips of food, a cookie, soft toast, breads or soft steamed vegetables that are large enough to provide a handle. Pay attention to preferences. And again, allow for time to eat.
If you have concerns about your baby’s feeding skills, MOSAIC can help! Call today to schedule a feeding evaluation with one of our trained therapists.