Speech-Language & Swallowing Milestones

The following speech-language skills are typically found at the ages indicated. 

​Age ​Speech-Language Skills ​Feeding Skills
​Birth to
  • Startles to loud sounds
  • Quiets or smiles to voice
  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing)
  • Vocalizes or cries for different needs
  • ​Takes 2 to 4 ounces of liquid per feeding
  • Takes 6 or more feedings per day
  • Sucks or suckles on a bottle (may lose some liquid from the mouth and tongue may be sticking out slightly)
3-4 months
  • ​Babbles
  • Pays attention to and looks toward music and sounds
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • ​Takes 4-7 ounces of liquid;
  • Takes 4 to 6 feedings per day
  • Improved coordination when sucking on a bottle, with up to 20 sucks in a row between pauses
​5-6 months
  • ​Smiles
  • Babbles
  • Pays attention to and looks toward music and sounds
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • ​Takes liquids, infant cereal and pureed foods
  • Takes 9 to 10 ounces of food or liquid per feeding
  • Takes 4 to 6 feedings per day
7-9 months
  • ​Produces a variety of vowel and consonant sounds in their babble
  • Vocalizes during games and songs
  • Imitates duplicated syllables (e.g., “bababa”)
  • Attends to music, speech and pictures
  • Stops or responds to name or “no”
  • ​Takes thicker purees (i.e., Stage 2 baby foods) and mashed table foods
  • Readily opens mouth to take food from a spoon
  • May suck liquid from an open cup, losing liquid from the mouth and/or occasionally coughing/choking with larger mouthfuls
  • Starting to eat simple solids and may move their tongue toward the sides if solids are placed on the molar regions
10-12 months
  • ​Says 1 or 2 words (e.g., bye-bye, mama, dada)
  • Vocalizes with intent frequently
  • Imitates more sounds
  • Gives objects upon request
  • Follows simple commands or routines with gestures or cues
  • Enjoys speech games, such as Peek-A-Boo
  • Starting to identify basic body parts
  • ​Can take multiple swallows in a row from an open cup
  • Starting to bite into solid food (e.g., soft cookie), breaking off a piece to chew
  • Begins independent hand-to-mouth feeding
  • May occasionally lose food or saliva from the mouth while chewing
12-15 months
  • ​Attends to pictures
  • Shakes head “no”
  • Says or imitates 8 to 10 words
  • Follows 1-step directions
  • Responds to name
  • ​Takes liquids and ground, mashed or coarsely chopped table foods
  • Can move solids from the center to the molar regions independently, using their tongue
18 months
  • ​Says 15 to 20 words
  • Talks more than gesturing
  • Asks “What's That?” and “More?”
  • Understands 50 words
  • Does a better job of chewing and swallowing without losing food from the mouth
  • Starting to move foods from side-to-side while chewing

21 months
  • ​Identifies a few body parts or clothing items on self
  • Uses at 25-50 words
  • Understands basic commands and questions (e.g., “Where's your shoe?”)
  • Listens to stories, songs and rhymes
  • Points to pictures in a book when named
  • Frequently uses single words
  • Occasionally uses 2-word phrases
  • ​Uses controlled, sustained chewing
24 months
(2 years)
  • ​Uses 50-100 different words
  • Uses 2-word phrases frequently
  • Refers to self by their name
  • Follows a 2-step direction (e.g., “Pick up your shoes and bring them to mommy”)
  • Can choose 1 object from a group of several items
  • ​Able to drink from a cup without losing liquid from the mouth
  • Chews and swallows solids without losing food from the mouth
  • Regularly moves foods from side-to-side while chewing
30 months
  • ​Uses 3-word phrases frequently
  • Tells you their name
  • Asks for help
  • Uses negation, such as “no” or “not”
  • Uses action words
  • Understands “big” and “little”
​36 months
(3 years)
  • ​Matches colors
  • Names a few colors
  • Answers simple “yes/no”, “what” and “where” questions
  • Counts to 3
  • Uses sentences to communicate
  • Follows a 3-step direction
  • Correctly says the following sounds: m, n, ng, p, f, h, w, k, g, b, d and t
  • Speech is 70-80% intelligible
  • ​Generally eats the same foods as the rest of the family
4 years
  • ​Speech is 90% intelligible
  • Sentences may range 4 to 8 words in length
  • Asks and answers a variety of “wh” questions
  • Accurately relays a long story
  • Starting to use complex sentences
  • Starting to use grammatically correct sentences
  • Counts to 10



Your child may benefit from a speech-language or feeding-swallowing evaluation if you have concerns in any of the following areas:


  • Child has not met typically expected milestones for speech and language development
  • Child stopped producing words that they were previously saying
  • Any regression in speech, language or social skills at any age
  • Reduced or no eye contact during play or communication
  • Does not respond to voice or sounds
  • Hoarse voice quality or frequent loss of voice
  • Child sounds as though they are speaking through the nose
  • Child's speech sounds like they always have a cold

Feeding & Swallowing

  • Poor weight gain, weight loss or failure to thrive
  • Choking, gagging or coughing during or after meals
  • Ongoing problems with vomiting during or after meals
  • Increased respiratory sounds or congestion during or after feedings
  • Food or liquids come through the nose when the child is eating or drinking
  • History of traumatic choking incident
  • History of poor eating and breathing coordination
  • Ongoing or recurrent respiratory issues
  • Delayed transition through food textures or from bottle to cup drinking
  • Aversion or avoidance of all foods in a specific texture or food group
  • Irritability, crying or arching during or after meals
  • Mealtimes are very difficult or take a long time to complete
  • Inappropriate or excessive drooling

Learn more about feeding and swallowing evaluations.