18 answers

HELP! My 1 Yr Old Daughter Is Making Herself Throw Up

My daughter has started putting her finger or thumb down her throat & is making herself throw up. I am looking for a little advice/guidance on how to handle this. She's a thumbsucker, so I don't want to put something that tastes bad on her fingers. She has always been small & the last time we were at the doctor, she was off the charts (below). She said it's nothing to worry about, but we need to make sure that she doesn't continue to go down. So now I'm worried because of this puking thing. She did it 3 times before 10am this morning! The first time was when she was in her high chair waiting for me to feed her & the other two times were when I put her in her crib for a nap. I'm guessing it's a phase & part of "exploring" herself, but I really don't want her to be throwing up all the time (for obvious reasons). Has anyone had this problem? Do they get over it fast? What types of things did you try & what helped to prevent or lessen it? Any advice/knowledge would be appreciated.

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My son did the same thing at about the same age. What really worked for me is ignoring it completely. I would just walk away. If she throws up clean it quietly and don't make a big deal of it. When she puts her fingers in her mouth look away or leave the room. If it continues when she isn't getting attention for it I would worry....but they do crazy things to get attention.

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Hi -
My now 7 yr old daughter did the same thing, she would also hold her breath and pass out if she was hurt, but thats a different story!! Take her to your peds and have her throat checked, we did with our daughter and found out that she had 2 huge marbles of tonsils back there that were bothering her and she was too little to tell us!! She had a swallow study and they saw that it was really affecting her ability to swallow hence the gagging and fingers in mouth and sleep snoring! After they were removed the behavior stopped and she gained and grew a ton!! She was always below the charts as well. She is so much better, she still has a little gag issue if things are tight around her throat like turtlenecks or certain foods like bananas..Worth having your peds take a look:) Good luck

2 moms found this helpful

My son did the same thing at about the same age. What really worked for me is ignoring it completely. I would just walk away. If she throws up clean it quietly and don't make a big deal of it. When she puts her fingers in her mouth look away or leave the room. If it continues when she isn't getting attention for it I would worry....but they do crazy things to get attention.

Hi A.- Not sure if this could be the reason, but you might want to check with your doctor about your daughter having GURD or reflux. We had a lot of trouble with our daughter being gaggy b/c of it. She didn't make herself throw up with her finger but would make gaggy faces (kindof like a cat trying to throw up a hair ball). With our DD she would act weird after eating b/c basically she had indigestion, but no words to tell us this. She is now on a low dose of prevacid every morning and it really seems to help. They have a soluble tab that we "melt" in a very small amount of water and she drink her "happy tummy" medicine with out a problem. Let me know if you want more advice on this. I'd be happy to talk more about it! S.

M. son did this and it totally irritated me!!! He didn't do it as frequently as your daughter does, but he would often do it until he gagged. I think we started out just laughing about it, but when he got old enough (and once when he did it in the car) I just made him sit in the puke (I know, gross, but I was driving home!) and we started taking a negative attitude about it--saying stop that when he was starting to do it. He eventually outgrew it, though we had another bout when he was 3 1/2 with him putting so much food on his mouth he'd gag and occasionally throw up.

Three times a morning seems like a lot. Have you told your doctor about the throwing up? Maybe she/he could address developmental issues that are making her do this and give advice on how to meet those needs in other ways???

Hi A.! M. 1 year old son threw up a few times this last week as well - the first was after gagging on a cheerio, and then twice more after "semi gagging" on other foods. I think he's just curious about the new thing he's learned, and decided to try it a couple more times. If I were you, I think I'd gently say No no no! when she does it, and try to divert her to something else. And then if it persists, talk to your doctor. But I would bet it'll just go away on it's own.

I would say the best thing to do is not react at all. Clean up the mess and try not to respond to your daughter at all. M. sisters son did the say thing at about the same age and she freaked out every time and then started to get upset. When her son knew he could cause such a reaction he did it a lot more and then at times to get out of time outs, leaving in the car ect. so try really hard to act like it didn't happen its gross and frustrating but I think that is what will nip it in the bud. Good Luck!

I have to wonder if part of the reason she is doing this is to get your reaction. I don't understand what you're going through totally, but was daughter sometimes gags herself and seeing the look of concern only made her do it more. It sounds like she is gagging herself for too long & making herself throw up. I got the most response from saying no & removing my daughter's hands from her mouth a few times, but if she continued to do it, I would ignore it. She rarely does it anymore. I tried to act like it didn't bother me, but she wasn't supposed to do it. My daughter is curious and can be strong-willed, so she tests a lot of limits. I get the best response ignoring something. She used to slam her head on the wall & I would say no and she would keep doing it. If I walked away she would quit. I would be concerned about it because it is hard on her little esophagus & beleive it can mess with her digestive system in the long run. Have you talked to your ped about it yet? God bless and good luck. I'll say a prayer for you now.

contact her doctor immediately.This is a problem and it's going to have long term effects on her health if it's not controlled soon. keep a diary of when she does it and any circumstances at that time and show them to your doctor.


One of my kids did this and several of my friends have kids who have done the same. You are right - they are exploring their bodies along with cause and effect. Be patient and don't make a big deal out of it. That is the fastest way to get it to stop. Eventually they figure out it is too unpleasant to bother with or they get bored of it and quit. Your child should quit in a week or two. Again, don't let it rile you or it will continue. Children love to push their parents buttons.

Don't worry about long term nurishment. Kids get the flu and don't keep a thing down for days. No permanent damage done.

Good luck,

My daughter did the same thing. It was just a phase she went through and if I remember right it didn't last all that long. It was all about attention and we just started to ignore it. It would start out with the gaging noise and when she noticed that we weren't watching her or having a reaction, she then stopped. I have also heard from friends that they would inform them that they would have to wear the "dirty" outfit all day long or help clean it up (which she may be to young for but everything is worth a try at this point right!) Good luck and let us know how it goes!!

If you can get your child to stop sucking her thumb now it would be better for her. My daughter is 8 and is still doing it in her sleep. It can cause problems with her teeth and I am sure mine will be seeing an ortodontist.

Hi A.. My 14 month old has started gagging himself also. So far he hasn't thrown up yet. When he does it I try to pull his hand out of his mouth and tell him no. I think it's just a phase that they go through. i would just try to tell her no when you see her start to put her finger in her mouth. Good luck to you.

My son was a bit older, I think about 3, when he taught himself to puke, and he could do it without the use of his finger. I will never figure that one out. What I basically did was tell him since he was throwing up, he was therefore sick and had to go to bed. He was made to stay in his bed for however long I felt was necessary without any fun extras. He got over it pretty quickly. She is young, but I know you can still talk to her about it, saying things like oh my your sick, you better stay in bed and get better. If she is still in a crib, you will be able to leave her for a while and then get her saying how healthy she looks now. Shouldnt take long for her to realize that being "sick" isnt much fun. Good Luck!

My daughter went through something similar, if her tummy wasn't full, then she would just make herself gag. It seemed to be a simple case of cause and effect...everything at this young age is cause and effect, that's how they learn. We would just gently swat her hand away everytime we saw it happening and tell her no no. The behavior stopped shortly after it started with no lasting effects. One other thing to remember is some children's gag reflex is a lot more sensitive than others...what would only make others gag (a very common thing for wee ones) might make your sweetie actually throw up.

Hi A.-
Try using the product that they use to stop nail biting and thumb sucking.
Called THUM
You can buy it at most drug stores.
You paint it on nails and it tastes bad- will keep her from wanting to make that action- hopefully - and get out of the habit.
About me 47yo med. prof, wellness coach and mom of almost 7yo twin girls.
B. J

I can't really say what you SHOULD do, but I do know what you SHOULD NOT: Do NOT give her a big reaction, no matter how much it upsets you - this is an extremely unhealthy way to get attention, and if she discovers she can control you with it, she may continue even if she doesn't want to.

M. own children only did it once or twice (didn't actually vomit), and I just sternly told them "No, no. Ucky!" That's all it took for mine, so may not be the same situation. I did know one little boy, though, who discovered he could use this to get out of all kinds of things (he was too UPSET to clean up his toys, share with his sister, quit hitting his brother, etc., etc.), and that would be a nightmare. So above all, don't get yourself into that game ;).

Hi A.! Wow! This is something I've never heard of (so feel free to judge any suggestions I make on that basis). Purging is the primary symptom of bulimia, and my understanding of that (I have an eating disorder myself although not bulimia) is that purging is a form of control: I can't control the rest of my life, but by God I can control this, etc. Hard to imagine that kicking in for a 1-year-old. You're gonna have to get her to stop sucking her thumb sometime, so why wouldn't you put bad tasting stuff on her fingers now? Maybe it's my eating-disorder background, but I'd take this very seriously -- especially if she's underweight. Have you mentioned the purging to her doctor? That would be my first suggestion. I would also speak to a doctor who specializes in eating disorders (there's probably a clinic in your town or surely at the nearest university) to see if this in any way relates to bulimia. Also -- by way of really cheering you up -- I'd pay very close attention to her eating habits when she reaches adolescence.
I'd be very interested to know what any doctors you consult may say. Best wishes! L.

You said she's doing this while waiting for food and before naptime. Is this her way of comforting herself?

My youngest was much smaller than her older siblings at birth (by more than two pounds) and shows me she's ready for nap/bed by chewing/suckling on her index and middle finger. For a while, she did this so excessively that she'd gag herself and vomit (I found out it was due to teething and she was trying to ease her pain).

She continued this even after her molars were in, so I let her start taking a small stuffed toy to bed. I know there is a LOT of controversy over when to let a child sleep with a blanket, stuffed toy, or pillow, but I found she was ok with a small (6-9 inches in height, and no fluffy padding) bear during nap time and then extended it to over-night. She loves to cuddle, and with Bear she doesn't need to chew on her hands. She's no longer suckling so much, and she's actually gaining weight and seems MUCH more rested in the morning.

Talk with your doctor to be 100% sure. I'm not a fan of pacifiers, but in my opinion, it's better than sucking a thumb or biting your nails (27-year nail-biter here..). Pacifiers can be taken away eventually and can honestly give comfort. That would be a last resort in my eyes, but whatever you can do for your little girl is worth it. I hope you find something that works for the two of you. :)

Best wishes,

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