Feeding Conditions

Infants and Toddlers: Oral Motor Development and Nutrition

Contact us about your infant's feeding issues
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Planning for and feeding your infant is important for normal development but can also be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. When an infant has difficulty with a feeding it can impact weight gain, development and overall wellbeing. These challenges can involve oral motor skills (swallowing) or nutrition (food allergies, intolerance).

Occupational therapists and dietitians at Woman’s Center for Wellness can provide guidance and therapy for children who are experiencing difficulty with achieving developmental milestones associated with feeding. 

For the breastfeeding mom, her diet can directly impact the health and wellbeing of the infant. If the baby starts to experience fussiness, gas, diarrhea or reflux this can be signs of a food allergy or intolerance.

As a child begins to eat solids, it is important to slowly introduce the different types of food into their diet following normal stages of development and nutrition. 

Remember, no two babies develop skills at the same time or the same way, so the chart below is intended as a guideline.

Normal Stages of Development and Nutrition

  0-2 months  3-5 months  6-8 months  9-12 months 13-24 months
Oral Motor Skills
  • Sucks to calm themselves and to eat
  • Able to nurse or take a bottle in 15-30 minutes
  • Mouths toys and hands
  • Develops more routine eating habits
  • More efficient with nursing or bottles with strong suck
  • Reflexive tongue lateralization
  • Introduction of solids and cup drinking
  • Uses munching movement with solids and transitions to diagonal movements by 8 months
  • Holds own bottle or cup
  • Finger feeds self by 8 months
  • Intentional lateral tongue movements develop 
  • Uses spoon to feed self
  • Has transitioned off bottle completely by 12 months
  • Proficient with finger feeding
  • Rotary chewing develops at about 12 months 
  • Can manage soft meat and a variety of table food cut into small pieces 
  • Lip closure with straws, cups, and chewing matures
  • Oral-motor movements become more refined as speech develops
  • By 2 years, manages most table foods
  • Breast milk for sole source of nutrition
  • Breast milk for sole source of nutrition
  • Breast milk for sole source of nutrition 
  • Begin introducing solid foods in small amounts
  • Breast milk for sole source of nutrition 
  • Continue introducing solid foods
  • Relies on solid foods as primary source of nutrition 
  • Introduce whole milk in place of formula