How do I stop my 22 month old son from gagging himself?

Karen - posted on 03/24/2013 ( 21 moms have responded )

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I am at my wits end with my son. He is 22 months old and he puts his hand so far into his mouth that he gags on it! He does this several and I mean SEVERAL times a day. Especially right after he gets done eating and he does it at least 5 or 6 times. He has been doing it for at least a month or more and I do not know what to do to stop him! I've tried distracting him, offering him something to drink, holding his hands, telling him "no" etc, and I've tried just ignoring it hoping he will stop. Nothing is working. He has not thrown up yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time until he does. He does it so much at one time that his face turns red and his eyes water. I just don't know what to do. Is this normal? Will he stop on his own?

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Aisha - posted on 03/31/2013

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This might seem cruel but it is effective. Let him choke himself. He is doing it to get a rise out of you. If he knows that you will freak out every time he does it he will keep it up. As soon as he starts turn your back to him and pretend to ignore him. Once he throws up, give him a towel and guide him to clean himself up. Stay completely calm and do not react. If he knows that he will have to clean up the mess he makes, and he will no longer get the same effect from you he will stop. I did the same thing to my son when he kept throwing toilet paper into the toilet.

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Leah - posted on 04/14/2013

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I was so relieved to know my boy wasn't the only one trying to gag himself! This started when he was 1 y/o. He got a nasty stomach virus, and couldn't keep anything down for 4 days! I think he realized that, when he gags or throws up, it gets my attention...QUICK!!! He started doing this for a few days after he got over the stomach virus and I forgot about it.

I had a lot of house work to do today and he did this several times to try to get my attention. It has been 3 months since he tried to gag himself, but I think he decided to try something besides the crying to get me to give him attention. He actually gets himself to throw up. Your son is probably doing this for attention. The suggestion to just ignore it is a good one (but hard to do when they are doing something destructive!). They understand what makes us stop what we are doing and run to them!

Karen - posted on 04/03/2013

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Thank you ladies. I have noticed that is definitely for attention! The other day I put my son down for a nap and he didn't want to be, after a few minutes I heard him gagging himself! I did not go into his room, I just ignored it and he stopped after a couple of minutes, ended up taking a nap :) While he is eating, I glance at him to make sure he's not actually having a problem, otherwise I just ignore him, I don't even say a word. I'm hoping he will stop soon.

Jen - posted on 04/03/2013

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My son did this off and on for about a year. Friends told me it wasn't uncommon so I never really reacted- but even so he thought it was the funniest thing in the world. He never made himself throw up, but he would do it over and over again. No worries, your little one will grow out of it too!

Jacquelyn - posted on 04/02/2013

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My son went through this phase as well. I believe a lot of it has to do with teething. What I did to keep my son from putting his hand in his mouth and choking on it was give him a pickle to chew on. Apparently the juice from the pickle helps soothe the gums and the bumps on the picklemake the gums feels better too. It helped my son a lot, and it kept his hands out of his mouth for the most part. When he did put his hands in his mouth, I knew I knew it would be just a matter of time before he would stop.

Sondra - posted on 04/01/2013

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My son is 17 months and he has done this for about 2 months now. He will just randomly walk through the house gagging himself!!!

[deleted account]

Sara... Thanks for your advice and post! I have figured out through process of elimination that my daughter is doing it for attention. I have stopped freaking out and running to her every time she does it and she has slowed it down since I have done that. Also, her back teeth are coming in and I also think that since she's ALWAYS has her fingers in her mouth to help ease the pain that she is possibly gagging herself. She has not thrown up yet and hopefully it does not get to that point. Thanks for all your advice and posts! Hope everyone had a blessed Easter!

Brandy - posted on 03/31/2013

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Both of my kids did this, I stopped reacting. Knowing there wasn't anything for them to choke on and not even looking at them when they did it was what stopped them. My son did it forever because his aunt severely overreacted to it from day one. My daughter did it for only a week, I told her no movie at bedtime if she didn't stop and she hasn't done it since. Good luck and they do grow out of it, eventually!

Deborah - posted on 03/31/2013

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Distract him with something else with regard to "eating" ... brushing teeth, pickle juice, candy ( peppermint) and then, think... maybe there is something wrong with his esophagus, or his throat and he feels like something is "stuck" ... have you discussed with his pediatrician? It sounds like a bad habit, but you cannot rule out something physical ailment that he cannot tell you about. There cannot be any "fun" reason that he does this, there is "SOMETHING" that "makes" him... he isn't really even old enough to have developed bad habits... have him checked out, cat scan, whatever, then... if there is nothing wrong, get him a puppy... hope you find out what it is... PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING SURROUNDING THE EVENT... and do not hesitate to try "dumb" things until you find the right distraction... PLEASE POST WHEN YOU FIND OUT WHAT IS CAUSING THIS... it must be so frustrating... good luck, and HAPPY EASTER!

Sara - posted on 03/31/2013

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I would just ignore it hun, he is doing it for attention, if he does puke up ask him if it felt nice, guaranteed he will say no then just tell him 'stop eating his hand and it wont happen again' and leave it to see what he does

My 2 year old did the same and after he puked once he stopped doing it

Teresa - posted on 03/29/2013

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I remember my now 9 year old doing that once and I told him to stop that and I guess the look on my face and tone of my voice (horror, surprise) was enough because he never did it again. I hope my 14 month old doesn't do this, but if he does, apparently others have and have lived! HAHA.

Karen - posted on 03/29/2013

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Well, from the sounds of it, this is normal toddler behavior. I'm hoping he out grows it Fast! I'm doing my best to just ignore him every time he does it. I look of course to make sure he's not Actually choking on something, but I'm not giving him any attention for it. Fingers are crossed!

[deleted account]

My daughter is 22 months old and she does the same thing...usually during or after eating. She also does it at random times throughout the day as well. I've found that she's doing it to get my attention. When I hear her gag herself, I come running and as soon as she sees me she stops and laughs about it. I too, have tried telling her "NO", offering her a drink, etc but she still does it. Any other suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!

The Treasure - posted on 03/29/2013

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My son is the same age and does the same thing! My two girls never did this. I hate it most when we are driving. I have to ask my girls to check that he isn't really choking on something. It comes and goes, and hopefully goes permanently very soon!

Robbyn - posted on 03/27/2013

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my son turned 3 in january he did this from about 1yr old till about 9 months ago all u can do is wait it out at least ur son isnt puking my son did every single time

Kim - posted on 03/26/2013

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My son did this I brushed his hand down calmly and firmly said no not funny and went on with what I was doing he quickly learned he's not getting away with itvand stopped

Cindy - posted on 03/26/2013

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I would note it to your pediatrician, just to be sure and see what he/she says. I have never heard of a kid doing that, but I don't have a lot of experience in this area. They might have some advice or it could be caused by a condition in some children... who knows? I would check with a doc (or just talk to a nurse on the phone) to be safe.

Angie - posted on 03/26/2013

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Give it time he will stop just don't react to it because he loves the attention its getting him. And if he throws up he probably wont like the feeling and he should stop then.

Sally - posted on 03/26/2013

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Kids do lots of gross stuff just to see what will happen. Watching mommy freak out makes it even better. It's hard to watch a kid hurt himself, but until he actually causes himself physical damage it's better to just pretend you don't see it and wait for him to find another way to entertain himself.
Good luck

Elfrieda - posted on 03/25/2013

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My son did this too. It's a normal but very annoying phase. Try not to react too much, it might turn it into something he does to get a reaction long after he might otherwise have stopped.

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