Welcome to part 3 of our 4 part blog series on feeding development! In case you missed them, check out our posts on important motor milestones for feeding and when to introduce certain food consistencies to your baby.
This week we are we’ll cover typical oral motor milestones, but first, let’s define what “oral motor” means. According to Super Duper, “oral motor development refers to the use and function of the lips, tongue, jaw, teeth, and the hard and soft palates. The movement and coordination of these structures is very important in speech production, safe swallowing, and consuming various food textures. Normal oral motor development begins prior to birth and continues beyond age three. By age four, most children safely consume solids and liquids without choking.” In other words, oral motor development is how we learn to use all of the structures in our mouth to eat and talk. In this post we’ll focus specifically on oral motor development for feeding.
For a very simple diagram of the different structures of the mouth, head over to WebMD to learn more about exactly where the hard and soft palates are located.
Now that we know what oral motor means, let’s take a look at oral motor milestones for feeding from birth to age 4*:
Term babies: reflexes (rooting, gag, etc.)
2 – 6 months: integrating reflexes (rooting, palmomental, phasic), loss of central pattern generator to support suck and transition to volitional sucking, opens mouth for approaching spoon, tongue moves purees to the back of the mouth
2 – 8 months: munching, lateral, and diagonal tongue movements
7 – 9 months: full lip closure, tongue lateralization, diagonal rotary/circular rotary movements of jaw.
10 – 12 months: controlled biting and rotary chewing
12 – 15 months: chews food with juice and firmer foods without choking
16 – 24 months: tongue gathers broken pieces to form bolus with the tongue, increased management of hard foods
24 – 48 months: continued improvement of jaw movements and eating with more efficiency
*This information was adapted from Dr. Kay Toomey’s SOS Approach to Feeding.
If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, language, hearing, or feeding development, please get touch with us. We offer free screenings and are located in Lakewood, Colorado.
Stay tuned next week for part four of our feeding series – we’ll be discussing the importance of appropriate posture during meal times. If you have any questions about this blog post or would like specific examples of each stage of oral motor development please don’t hesitate to contact us!