Infant and childhood nutrition influences short- and long-term health. The objective of the present paper has been to explore dietary patterns and their associations with child and parent characteristics at two time points. Parents of Norwegian 2-year-olds were, in 1999 (n 3000) and in 2007 (n 2984), invited to participate in a national dietary survey. At both time points, diet was assessed by a semi-quantitative FFQ that also provided information on several child and parent characteristics. A total of 1373 participants in the 1999 sample and 1472 participants in the 2007 sample were included in the analyses. Dietary patterns were identified by principal components analysis and related to child and parent characteristics using the general linear model. Four dietary patterns were identified at each time point. The ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ patterns in 1999 and 2007 showed similarities with regard to loadings of food groups. Both the ‘bread and spread-based’ pattern in 1999 and the ‘traditional’ pattern in 2007 had high positive loadings for bread and spreads; however, the ‘traditional’ pattern did also include positive associations with a warm meal. The last patterns identified in 1999 and in 2007 were not comparable with regard to loadings of food groups. All dietary patterns were significantly associated with one or several child and parent characteristics. In conclusion, the ‘unhealthy’ patterns in 1999 and in 2007 showed similarities with regard to loadings of food groups and were, at both time points, associated with sex, breastfeeding at 12 months of age, parity, maternal age and maternal work situation.