15 answers

Is He a 2 Year Old or a Chipmunk, Storing Food for the Winter?

Hello it's me AGAIN Ladies,

I hope you can shed some light on this most recent problem, although it's kind of been around in some form as long as my son has been eating solids.

Our Sam is 27 months old, eats six or seven bites of food, then begins storing the next bites into his left cheek. And it kind of depends on the type of food, but most meals end up about half into his belly and half into his cheek. If I weren't concerned about it, I'd be laughing because he really looks comical with that big gooey wad in his mouth. And he can store it there for HOURS. One lunch I thought he was done, put him down for nap, went to get him after two hours and he woke up munching on his stored away hot dog!! I can't tell you how gross that was to see. Not to mention the thought of his poor little teeth being rotted away on the left side. Yogurt, applesauce and such are not a problem but obviously the items I would label as regular food always end up in his cheek. We've begun a "scoop out" routine before I get him out of his chair and have been insisting on an extra tooth brushing - which we both love cause it's F. U. N.! (Does sarcasm relate over the internet?)

Okay, so that's the background. My question is this: Does anyone think I should be worried for a medical reason? Could there be something physically wrong to inhibit his swallowing or manuvering what he chews? Or do you think it's just him flexing his two year old muscles?

Thanks so much for your time and any responses.
Sincerely,
J.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions! We have been watching him more closely during meals and I am no longer waiting until the END of the meal to scoop out his cheek. The whole time reminding him that his teeth will get boo-boos if he keeps the food there. It seems to be working a bit. We also ask him to show us his empty mouth so we can ooh and ahh and wow at him that he's such a big boy. It's finally sinking in. I think we're going to have to keep doing it for a while before it becomes second nature.

Thanks again, Mamas!!

Featured Answers

The best is when stored anything with chocolate has been in my toddler's mouth for who-knows-how long and it squirts out when she trips and falls. Yummy.

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Hey, J.

My 3yo does that, too. Different reasons it seems -- sometimes he is full, other times he is distracted. Also, I think sometimes he's either tired of chewing or that it's too dry a bite. Often for not-too-dry bites, I just remind him to chew and swallow. For dry bites I really have to be sure that it's small enough for him to do a lot of chewing, otherwise it's all ground up in his mouth and he can't swallow it. When I call his attention to it, he might spit it out. If I see he is having difficulty with even a small dry bite, then I tell him to take a drink if he needs it to help him chew.

I do the last idea, because I know that developmentally he was on the slow side of learning to actually chew. I know a lot of moms are so excited that they're kids were eating solids and didn't care if the food came out the other end undigested. I didn't think it was nutritionally valuable unless it was digested. Anyway, he would have to drink while eating to be able to masticate properly. A friend of mine, who is an expert in development as it relates to moving from milk to solids, and I were talking about how my son was not really talking yet around 18 mos. She asked if he was still using a lot of liquid when he was eating. He was. She said that until they start chewing, they don't really start talking. I guess the muscle development from chewing gives them the muscle development to speak. So, that's why we work so much on chewing. I did notice that once he started chewing he did start talking a lot more, and not just the baby sounds. I used to have to be really graphic and show him how I chewed. I am sure it was a sight to see.

I also agree with the mom who said you made her day with your adorable explanation of the problem. It had great visuals that made me giggle too.

1 mom found this helpful

The best is when stored anything with chocolate has been in my toddler's mouth for who-knows-how long and it squirts out when she trips and falls. Yummy.

1 mom found this helpful

okay, your request made me laugh because my (much younger) sister did the same weird thing!! All of us kids had to "keep an eye out" on her to make sure she wasn't storing food in her cheek! And like you said, we'd discover it hours later--gross! Hope it makes you feel better to know that my mom never had to do anything about it--she just grew out of it. It never caused her any problems and she is a really smart girl and a college graduate now, who always swallows her food. :). She didn't end up with any teeth problems or swallowing issues, etc.

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Hi J.,

My son did the same thing from the beginning when he started eating solid food. He turned 2 in June and sometimes he still chipmunks his milk of all things. I wasn't too worried about it until a cousin told me that he knew a kid in high school who did it and would splatter old food everywhere when he talked. aaaack. I totally freaked out, picturing this horrible future for my then 1 year old. When I finally spoke to a professional about it, they gave me a simple and obvious solution that had never occurred to me. When he appears to be finished eating, clean out his cheeks before you let him out of the high chair. Light bulb! He didn't like it, but we wouldn't find disgusting lumps of food around the house, or better yet, he never embarrassed me in the grocery store by spitting a lump of who knows what (yes he really did) again! Once he realized that we weren't going to let him do it anymore, he quickly stopped the tendency for the most part. We sometimes have to remind him to swallow before we let him leave the table, but for the most part he's 'cured'. Good luck to you. I can totally laugh about it now, but at the time, I was pretty worried about it. :)

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds a bit like he gets bored of chewing. It does sound like something that's correctable. My little girl is a sometimes crammer, she'll sometimes stuff so much in her mouth at once that she can't chew and has actually gagged herself. You're going to have to watch him, you can try making a game out of it. After every bite check his "pouch" before you let him take another bite. Praise him on how big he's getting eating his bites all gone before taking more. When you catch him hiding food away gently correct him, a soft "No, no hun, chew it up and make it all gone first.".

I hope this helps. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

oh, i'm in tears! that's the single funniest post i've yet to see on mamasource! i've got no suggestions for you, but you've totally made my Monday morning.

1 mom found this helpful

I can't believe you wrote that story today. My girlfriend was just reliving a time from when our kids were little. (They're out of college now.) Anyway, one of the little neighbor girls was taking a walk with her about an hour after dinner one night and was chewing what my friend thought was gum. She knew she wasn't allowed to do that so she asked the little girl what she was chewing and what flavor it was. The little girl said "cherry" and opened her mouth to show it. It was meat left over from dinner. So...the moral of the story is don't sweat it. Scoop it out so he doesn't choke but don't make a big deal out of it. He'll outgrow it. And that IS one of those cute things they do. Enjoy him like it sounds you're doing.

1 mom found this helpful

funny thing, my 21 month old has started doing the same thing. he has super chubby cheeks anyway and I didn't realize for awhile. He actually fell asleep on my lap one day with a cheek full of macaroni and cheese, thankfully I realized and got it all out! I think its just an experimental thing, and will probably pass with time. Until then keep checking those cheeks!

1 mom found this helpful

My youngest son did this too. He still will occasionally and he's 3 1/2 - he doesn't eat very much and is pretty slow about what he does eat. I try to make sure his mouth if clear before giving him another bite but sometimes he feeds himself or sometimes he hides it well. He usually started to do this when he didn't really want anymore or didn't really like the food. Like everyone else has responded I wouldn't worry about it too much, just make sure he doens't put too much in there or walk away with enough in there to cause a problem with choking. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J., your question made me laugh out loud! It's just my opinion, but I don't think you need to be worried for a medical reason. I think he's doing it because he can or because he likes the reaction he gets from you or maybe he really just wants to save some for later! I think your "scoop out" routine sounds really important though because Sam could have choked on the food when he was laying down for his nap. Can you try making him show you his empty mouth after each bite before he can have anything else?

1 mom found this helpful

Hahaha, gotta love toddlers. My sister did that, too, way back in the day. My parents discovered that it was her way of getting out of eating more. My mom was infamous for the "one more bite" requests. My sister figured out that if she was she still had food in her mouth, Mom wouldn't ask her to eat more. One time, she actually stored meat (cube steak to be specific, ugh!) overnight. When we got up the next morning, she was chewing and my mom asked her what it was, so my sister opened her mouth to show her. Needless to say, Mom was pretty grossed out and started making sure my sister's mouth was empty before she left the table.

Clearly, my story has no advice in it. I just wanted to let you know that it isn't terribly strange for your little one to do that. I doubt he has a physical problem since you said he does chew and swallow. Just make sure he empties his mouth before he leaves his chair and it should be all good. I'm sure he'll grow out of it.

Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My middle daughter used to do that. She outgrew it when she was about 3 or 4. We didn't make a big deal about it, she never spit anything out, she would just save it and eat it later. I figured it was her mouth and if she wanted it there, she could have it. You would think that it would be really nasty, but she didn't mind. She's perfectly fine now and it did not cause cavities, because she's 7 now and still has none.

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Perhaps he just doesn't want to take the time to chew it up and swallow it.
So, I would supervise his eating and do not let him take another bite until the previous one is chewed and swallowed.
Storing the food in his mouth is not only bad because of his teeth as you mentioned, but because of the danger of choking on it.
The enzymes in his mouth are turning it into mush but still he must learn to chew and swallow.
I haven't heard of this before but 2 year-olds sure can think of the darndest things to do, can't they.
This will certainly take extra effort on your part but it needs to be done.
I would go so far as to dole out his food to him, making sure that he chews and swallows and tell him that until he can do so on his own that you are in charge of his food.

1 mom found this helpful

Our 27 mo DD kind of does the same thing and has been for a while. We even call it "chipmunking". Luckily she only does it at the table. If we catch her doing it we will reminder her to finish the bite before she takes another one. We sometimes even have to check and even have her spit the lump out if she has too much "stored". Luckily she hasn't taken food away from the table, yet.

I'd keep doing what you're doing and just remind him to finish his bite before taking another. If he seems to be "storing" more than he's eating then I'd take the plate away. He'll learn.

1 mom found this helpful

i am so sorry to tell you that when i read this i told my husband and we couldn't stop laughing
my son did the same thing it was gross but i think its just one of those things where you choose your battle its all in all not that big of a deal as long as he has never choked on any of the food i would just let it go and just laugh at it like we do now

1 mom found this helpful

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