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Eating and drinking 0-2 years

Eating and drinking 0-2 years

Eating and drinking are important skills in the health and development of children. Eating and drinking the right foods allow children to grow and develop other developmental skills. In addition to this, mealtimes are important as they allow children to learn important new skills and form bonds and relationships with their family.

When a child struggles with eating and drinking, there can be cause for concern as the child may not be receiving the right nutrients, developing the right skills for eating and drinking, or developing a tolerance to different textures, consistencies and food types. Children who struggle with meal times will not have an appropriate model of how to behave during meal times or have the opportunity to form bonds or relationships during this time.

All children develop at different rates, it is the same with eating and drinking some children may develop certain skills before others. This may also be down to cultural influences on weaning and food preference. There are some typical milestones that children are expected to reach as they grow up.

Kids Feeding Team

SLT for Kids work closely with the Kids Feeding Team, in order to ensure each child has a safe and effective swallow. The Kids Feeding Team is a multidisciplinary team that work closely with a variety of childrens support needs.


0-1 month

  • Is bottle or breast fed milk.
  • Has developed the rooting reflex - When a baby is touched or stroked on their cheek they will move their head in that direction and open their mouth wide.
  • Has developed the suck swallow breathe reflex - Children develop this sequence in order to coordinate their breathing with sucking milk as they cannot do both at the same time. This sequence is triggered when a finger or teat is put into the child’s mouth and pressure is applied to their palate.
  • Will take at least two sucks before breathing during the suck swallow breathe reflex.
  • May lose liquid from the sides of their mouth.
  • Minimum of 6-8 feedings in a day of 2-4 ounces.

2-4 months

  • Will bring hands to their mouth.
  • Will have approximately 4-6 feedings per day of 4-7 ounces.
  • Will be able to take 20 sucks before stopping to breathe.

5-6 months

  • Will start to pat the bottle or source of milk during feeding.
  • Will start to eat small amounts of pureed foods from a spoon.
  • Will take 9-10 ounces of food or liquid per feed.
  • Will start to bite or suck on baby biscuits.
  • May use some up down chewing movements.
  • Gag reflex will start to diminish around 6-7 months allowing baby to eat more chunky foods.
At five months babies will be able to take small amounts of pureed food from a spoon.

“At five months babies will be able to take small amounts of pureed food from a spoon.”

7-8 months

  • Will eat thicker pureed foods at 7 months.
  • Will eat grounded or mashable food at 8 months.
  • Will move tongue up, down and side to side when chewing food.
  • Will hold own bottle during feed.
  • A cup can be introduced with adult support - Will take large amounts of liquid in each sip, much liquid will spill out the mouth, may cough or choke in response.
  • Will mouth or chew on, spoon, teethers, toys and baby biscuits.

9-12 months

  • Will take longer sucks when drinking from a cup but may still struggles coordinating breathing and drinking.
  • Start to eat finger food by themselves.
  • Start to grip a spoon but may not be able to bring it to the mouth and feed themselves.
  • Will start to move jaw and tongue a lot more during eating, will also start to move food around the mouth.

12-18 months

After two years children will show their own food preferences and will be able to feed themselves.

“After two years children will show their own food preferences and will be able to feed themselves.”

  • Will bite food well.
  • Will eat chopped, mashed, grounded food.
  • Will use tongues to move food from side to side.
  • Will lose a bit of saliva out of the mouth when chewing.
  • Occasionally chew with mouth closed.
  • By 18 months will eat chunky cut food including meat and vegetables.
  • By 18 months will drink from a cup without losing liquid from mouth.
  • Will start to feed themselves with a spoon but will drop some of the food of the spoon.
  • Will start to refuse certain foods.

24 months (2 years)

  • Will know the difference between food and non-food items.
  • Will show a clear food preferences i.e. particular likes and dislikes of certain foods.
  • Will swallow well from a cup losing no liquid with good lip seal around the cup.
  • Will swallow food well without losing food with good lip seal and control.
  • Will move jaw in round movements as well as side to side during chewing.
  • Will scoop food with spoon with some loss.
  • Will start to stab food with fork and bring it to mouth.

Between the ages of 2-3 your child will start to eat the same food as the rest of the family. Your child will be able to feed themselves with a spoon and a fork and serve themselves at dinner time with occasional spills. Your child will have developed definite likes and dislikes ad therefore refuse certain foods and may become a picky eater.

Feeding clinic

Our speech and language therapists are able to provide assessment and therapy for chilodren with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.


How speech and language therapy can help a child with delayed development

Our speech and language therapists have the knowledge and skills to help ensure children maintain a healthy and safe swallow during mealtimes and do not experience aspiration or choking. Our speech and language therapists can provide an assessment of your child’s skills and provide an individualised therapy programme to suit yours and your child’s needs.

Worried about your child's development?

If you are worried about your child’s development, do not hesitate to contact us to speak to one of our passionate speech and language therapists.


If you are concerned about your child’s eating, drinking and swallowing and would like to book an assessment please email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298.

Talk to us

If you would like any more information on any of the services we offer or would like to book an appointment, do not hesitate to contact us and one of our team will be happy to help. Email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298.

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Our expert speech and language therapists provide a range of services for children with eating, drinking and swallowing support needs, alongside our professionals multidisciplinary team.

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