13-month-old with a gag reflex

Jessica - posted on 02/18/2010 ( 2 moms have responded )




My daughter is 13-months-old and has what I would consider a pretty severe gag reflex. I have been told by our doctor and by other mothers that this is pretty normal in babies. I don't doubt that it is normal. However, finding things for her to eat is getting harder and harder. She has tired of the baby food, since it's often the same flavors over and over again, and I can see that she hungers for something more substantial in her belly.

We've tried chicken breast, finely cut up, green beans, finely chopped, pasta (either angel hair or rotini chopped up with my fork), etc. She gags through it all pretty much, even the toddler foods in the little tubs you can warm up. Of those we've tried spaghettios with meat and a sort of chicken and vegetable broth. For whatever reason, most chunky baby 3rd foods are difficult for her to manage as well.

Some mothers suggest just putting the food on her high chair tray and letting her work through it. That's not really an option when it comes to my daughter, because she either doesn't eat it at all, or shoves her mouth full until she's choking it back out. She has no understanding of chewing before taking more food.

Through every spoonful I give her, I say to her, "chew, chew, chew" and "swallow, swallow, you're okay, you're okay" since she panics when she starts to gag. Feeding her has become a real trial. I think she wants to eat, she's hungry for food for sure, but finding things she CAN eat that are manageable for her is really difficult. I can tell that most baby foods for her age group expect that she should be able to handle the chunkier food items but she really can't.

To top this off she only has two teeth, in the middle on the bottom. So she's forced to gum her way through most foods. And when the food hits her tongue she gags like crazy.

Any suggestions, either on how to help her through the gagging or on foods that she could eat?

Thanks for any help you can provide.


Elaine - posted on 02/19/2010




Have you tried giving her Cheerios or Gerber puffs to practice chewing with? This won't exactly help you get anything substantial in her stomach, but it may help her learn to chew without starting to choke and panic. Mine didn't do well with the 3rd foods either. I think he was confused by the combination of mush and chunks. He would think it was smooth baby food and try to swallow and would then choke. I decided to just skip them. Now he can eat bits of hot dog, chicken nuggets, waffles, bread, bananas, etc. Sometimes he still chokes, but not often.

Good luck!

Jessica - posted on 02/19/2010




Thanks, Elaine for your help. We have tried cheerios and puffs, she really likes those! We've also seemed to have a good deal of success with pasta.

Interestingly, today we went to a therapist with our daughter to determine why she's not crawling as well. She doesn't pull herself up, doesn't rock on all fours, and doesn't crawl. We were concerned, suffice to say. Today we learned she has low muscle tone in her back and shoulders. Physical therapy and speech therapy were recommended to us. It seems her gag reflex could also be attributed to the fact that she has low muscle tone through her neck and mouth, so she struggles to chew and swallow.

I never thought it could be that! We're still proceeding slowly. She too has had some hotdogs, bananas and bread and the therapist also recommended we just skip the 3rd foods altogether. She said babies tend to have some issues with the creamy and chunkiness of the food combinations; she recommended to go right to table food. So that's what we're going to do! Now its just a matter of finding things for her to eat...

Thanks for your help!


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