Baby Feeding Milestones of Children 0 - 18 Months
When asked about a child’s milestones, parents often think about when they sat, crawled or walked. Learning to eat however also follows milestone steps. Cognitive development of the brain is closely linked to baby feeding skill development. Feeding difficulties can be a real concern for parents. Feeding our children is one of the most important jobs a parent can do! For more information of feeding difficulties in children see our Infant & Child Feeding Difficulties Clinic.
There are baby feeding developmental steps that:
- Relate to the child’s understanding and involvement in the feeding process, AND
- Steps that relate to the muscle movements and development over time to allow them to try and chew new foods and textures.
DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES OF A CHILD’S UNDERSTANDING AND INVOLVEMENT IN THE BABY FEEDING PROCESS
What should my baby be eating at 0 to 3 Months:
To begin to organise themselves to make baby feeding accessible. Babies first establish sleep patterns & periods of alertness. The child will determine HOW MUCH feed they will take.
To read the babies hunger cues and help them to organise themselves in to sleep and eat patterns. Parent’s determine WHAT the child is fed (breast, bottle, combination of these).
What should my baby be eating at 4 to 7 Months:
Give and take in the feeding interaction begins as parents learn to read the babies needs correctly, the baby in response learns to respond to the parent’s behaviours – e.g., children recognises it dinner time as the carer sets up highchairs or prepares food in the kitchen. To learn about how spoons, feel in the mouth and how to take food off the spoon. Babies are still in control of HOW much they will take. Babies need for food is triggered by CALORIE set points – they know nothing about volume i.e., they may not finish the last mouthful in the bowl as they do not see finishing the bowl as the “goal”!
Determine WHEN and WHAT solids are introduced during this period. Reading babies cues for spoon presentation timing and “had enough” cues.
What should my baby be eating at 8 to 14 Months:
This is when babies often start crawling and extending their physical distance from their parents. Their role is to explore the world and to manage their anxiety of becoming more independent. Children will control HOW MUCH and WHETHER to eat. A sense of “self” is emerging at this age and hence they can begin to establish that they can indicate “I don’t want it”. Taste buds are also developing and changing at this age so they may become less interested in baby foods.
Encourage their new interest in independence including trying to self-feed and exploration of foods (messy play and eating with food). WHILE this is happening, parents need to provide structure or feeding routines and establish safe boundaries as the child wants to explore new foods. Parent controls WHAT and WHERE the child eats. Establish a happy eating environment where the child is keen to try to feed themselves. It is OK to dual feed with you also having a spoon. This is important if you need to support their nutritional needs. Co-feeding can be fun and a great social experience.
What should my baby be eating at 16 to 18 Months:
Willingness to try new tastes and textures and to understand the changes in their taste perceptions. Increased desire to feed themselves.
Continue to slowly vary textures and range of foods and range of tastes to give the child varied food experiences.
September 1, 2017
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