14 Month Old Refusing to Self-feed/textured Food Make Her Gag

Updated on February 09, 2010
K.C. asks from Nashua, NH
10 answers

This is happening now with our 14 month old daughter isabella - she will eat stage 2 foods till the cows come home, nibbles on a teething bisquit or cookie, but if she bites off a big chunk of cookie, and on the rare occasions when she tries to put puffs or cheerios in her mouth, she gags and spits it out - same with any type of stage 3 food with bits of pasta. We offer her food every night, bits of what we are eating, and she either doesn't touch it or throws it over the side of the highchair with a disgusted look on her face.

Even this morning, we had some stage 3 Oatmeal with Apples and cinnamon - she seems to like it, but it's almost like it's too "thick" and she doesn't swallow it properly or all the way - She had already had a bottle this morning so after a few bites and 2 or 3 gags, I stopped.

We keep offering her these "finger foods" nightly but it's just getting discouraging. She recently started daycare and is "stuck" in between the Infant and Toddler rooms. One of the requirements is to be able to self feed in the Toddler room - she spends most of her day in the Toddler room, and 1 or 2 of the ladies there seem "disappointed" that she isn't feeding herself. In truth she was 10 months old before she ever had a tooth pop out, and my hubby and I didn't give her any textured food earlier, maybe we should have. She also started crawling late (around the same time, 9 or 10 months). She is now walking, and in all other areas she seems perfectly healthy.

She doesn't gag at all with the stage 2 foods, and more often than not we give her as much variety in tastes as possible and usually mix it with some rice cereal or other types of cereal. She does drink juice with no problem out of a sippy cup, but will only drink milk warmed in a bottle.

We mentioned this at her 12 month appointment to the pediatrician, she said as long as she is eating not to worry. I just want to know if other people have experienced this, what they did to help expand their babies diets, tricks/tips on introducing new/different foods/textures at this "late" age, etc. We will continue to offer her finger foods at the beginning of every meal (when she is probably hungrier), but especially with the pressures of daycare, I am becoming a little discouraged.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.


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So What Happened?

Well, we had her evalutated by a team of professionals (Occupational, nutrition and speech therapists) and their conclusions were comforting - she is definitely "slow" to accepting new foods but we are doing all the right things. Autism was not even mentioned. They commented on how beautiful, happy, and social she was. She actually tried a new food there! (berry yogurt melts). She is now eating cut up peaches, pears, and mandarin oranges with a fork! They do think she has a bit of oral sensitivity, and gave us suggestions (massage, teeth brushing, etc) to get her over that. I also think a part of her "appetite" improved dramatically and we also tried some tips (lowering the high chair and not using the tray but pushing her into the table so she's at "our" level) and the bottom line is she is "improving", however slowly, but she is getting there. The nutritionist suggested adding some meats (chicken and sweet potatoes, etc) to her baby food repertoire. Otherwise, she's doing fine! She has also tried and like cereal bars now, and granola bars. Chocolate cheerios are a hit, and she seems to eat a lot more "volume" than she did. She had had several ear infections this year already but at this moment (knock on wood) she isn't sick and I think that helps a LOT with her appetite, mood, etc. Except now the resistance to getting dressed, bedtime, hair brushing, etc are turning into tantrums - onto my next question! Thanks to all who added their 2 cents and expressed their opinions.

More Answers



answers from Boston on

I amazes me that as infants and toddlers we try to "force" our kids to start eating this or that according to some schedule of time pre-determined by books, or day care workers or some other "professional" or establishment, and then we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic among our children today. First of all, let your daughter discover foods and food textures at her own pace. She won't starve, and eventually she'll eat a larger variety of foods. Second under no circumstances should you let the daycare workers dictate to you how or what she should be eating. It is to bad for them if her eating habits are inconvenient. They are getting paid to deal with that, and if they continue to be a problem, you may want to consider a different center.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hi K.-Lyn,
Our daughter experienced similar problems with textures. She was admitted to early intervention on account of it. I will share with you the strategies the EI nurse advised to help overcome the extreme sensitivity of the gag reflex:
1. A couple of times a day, massage her face by stroking around her mouth.
2. If she has any vibrating toys, hold them to her face as they vibrate a couple of times a day, just for a few seconds.
3. Desensitize the inside of her cheeks and gums by gently stroking the inside of her mouth with those nubby toothbrushes made for babies that are just getting their teeth.
4. When you give her the baby food, don't heat it up. Just give it to her room temp, the way it comes out of the jar.

These strategies worked pretty quickly for us. I would say within a month, our daughter was able to eat table foods. We were very glad that she was able to eat table foods and gain some independence while eating. However, be forewarned that your daughter's gag reflex might remain especially sensitive. Even though she overcame the gag reflext to eat on her own, our daughter, now aged six years, still has an extremely sensitive gag reflex and certain sights or smells stil make her throw up. Her doctor said she has"an easily-triggered gag reflex which is easily generalized," which means, once her gag reflex is triggered, almost anything will make her actually throw up. It is getting better as she gets older. We have had to teach her that when she feels like she is going ot throw up, she needs to stop looking at whatever is making her gag, Sometimes it is as simple as seeing crumbs or dribbles around other kids' faces as they eat at school or whatnot.
Good luck!



answers from Portland on

I'm sorry, i don't have any sage advice here, but in general it seems like a good idea since she is over the age of 1 to get her off the bottle and always offer her food first. I know that can be a whole separate battle, but she should be getting her nutritional needs met through food not fluids, so you are right on to think that she may be more apt to eat foods when she is hungriest. Have you tried one of those food mills to "puree" your meals into textured baby food? I think in general real food has more flavor and may be more appealing if offered consistently. Smoothies can also be a little gritty, but yummy and inviting to kids - and it can be served in a sippy.
Besides that - keep doing what you are doing! You certainly haven't done anything "wrong"!
Kids are just different and I think the daycare is a little ridiculous to set such expectations. My oldest needed to be encouraged through meals until she was 3.5 and it took that long for her to use utensils. My youngest, on the other hand has been feeding himself since he turned 1 and won't eat ANY finger foods. Has to be with a fork or spoon!

Just make sure she is getting the nutrients she needs - the rest will fall into place. I PROMISE you - you will not have a kindergartener opening stage 2 baby food at lunch!!



answers from Stationed Overseas on

My daughter is 15 months and still eats stage 2 foods. I have been trying for months to get her to eat solid food. She would gag or push away the food or cry if there was a piece of pasta on her tray LOL! I finally just let her go at her own pace. I put pieces of food on her tray but I don't tell her to eat them. I ignore them and just let her figure it out on her own. It seems to be working she has finally figured out Cheerios and now loves them. She ate a small pancake the other day which seemed like a miracle you would have thought she just won an Olympic medal the way I praised her! She doesn't have too many teeth so I think she's just realizing how to chew and then swallow.
Does she have the opportunity to watch the other kids eat at daycare? That might help a bit. And don't worry what other people think kids don't always do things 'on-time', your daughter will do it when she's ready.



answers from Boston on

Hi K.-Lyn,

I hope this finds you and your daughter doing well.

I don't have too much to add to what everyone has already said, but I agree with Margaret K. from my own experience. My 13-month-old daughter has always been a big eater and loves the pureed foods. She will eat puffs and other finger foods, like cheese and fruit cut up, but she often won't even touch our table food at meals. I agree to give her time and she'll come around. One day, my daughter won't touch chicken and the next day she can't stop eating it. Definitely not forcing her or making a big production about it is helpful, I think. And like your doctor said, as long as she is eating, I think it is totally okay that she is not yet able to feed herself. I know with daycare it is a different issue, but maybe start small and find a finger food that she does like and let her get comfortable with it and move on from there?

Good luck!



answers from Boston on

My oldest son, now 4, had the same problem. In fact, when his younger brother begain eating solid foods, the younger one could often handle bigger chunks than the older one could! The problem was not a lack of teeth, either. My oldest son got his first tooth at 3 months and always had a mouthful -- he just didn't know how to use them. He was picky about texture well past 2 years of age. Now, at 4, he eats just about anything (much more variety than most kids) and no longer gags on his food. So if your pediatrician is not worried, I wouldn't worry either. Just keep offering chunks slightly larger than your daughter is comfortable with, and sooner or later she will be able to eat them. Maybe you could offer the chunky foods a little less often, given that you are only getting discouraged. I'm not really convinced that practice makes perfect in this regard. I think some kids just aren't ready for chunky foods right away, and it's unlikely to change overnight.

My son also STILL wants me to feed him sometimes. Now I usually say no -- clearly he is able to do this himself. But there are some nights when I know he'd get more dinner if I gave in to his requests. I would not let the daycare ladies get you down. Just pick your battles. I figure if a kid is really hungry, she will feed herself. If you really want her to get her veggies, though, maybe you want to feed her those.


answers from Providence on

Sorry for being a little late with the response, but I did want to add my advice.

I think what's important to remember, first and foremost, is that children develop at different rates and in the their own way. I understand your "problem" with her being in daycare that it's important to self feed, but I also think it's imperative to not forget that all toddlers are different.

My son wouldn't even allow me to feed him baby cereal until he was over 6 months...he lived on formula up until then and way after. Even now at 3 he's a moody eater.

In this case, I think it's important for you to use your motherly instincts on this one. No one knows your child better than you. Her pediatrician is correct...she's eating..so there's no cause for alarm. Your daughter just chooses to not throw up at her meals...I see nothing wrong with this. When she is ready, she will eat "bigger" food.

For now, I'd say let it slide and don't worry about it. She's happy and healthy and that's all that matters. The daycare workers can relax and be there for her rather than judge her and be "disappointed".




answers from San Diego on

My best friend's son was doing this up until age three. He needed foods introduced to him slowly and at five he is still a choosy eater, he is very sensitive when it comes to textures. He would gag and sometimes throw up with certain foods. (Potty training was tough for them because of smells) In all ways though, healthy (very big) active boy.

This isn't your fault for not introducing her to different foods earlier. You may find that you or your husband is particular about textures. It runs in families. Don't push, just go slow and respect that certain foods she will not take to until later. Daycare providers will/should understand individual differences in children's tastes, so there should be no pressure from them.

You may want to give her own spoon to her to eat her stage 2 food to encourage self feeding. Messy, but give her the sense of being more in control of what she is eating and her eating choices. She really will grow out of this. She sounds healthy in all ways!




answers from Boston on

We are going through the same thing with my 9 month old and she qualifies for Early Intervention due to the feeding issue. They come to your house and work on feeding strategies. They suggested to me that I start crushing and sprinkling puffs on the stage 2 foods to increase tolerating bigger pieces. They actually discouraged the stage 3 foods because of the way they are made, the "chunks" are prefabricated and don't mimic actual chewed up foods that are broken into various bits - and it might disperse among the mouth differently. You can also buy those "nets" with the handle that you can put foods into so she can learn to chew without actually getting the large chunk of food in her mouth - only the flavor and little squished bits. My daughter won't even put a cheerio or puff in her mouth - nevermind touch her lips or have a biting biscuit! You can also go out and buy (at a pharmacy) nuk brushes and rub them around her mouth to "stimulate" and desensitize before feeding. We are just beginning, so we haven't gotten far yet, but I wish you luck - it really stinks when there are food issues involved. : ( You can also contact a local rehabilitation center and see if they will do a feeding evaluation (with OT and/or SLP). We did this also at Braintree Rehab in Taunton.



answers from Boston on

How frustrating- I tend to agree with your pedi that as long as she is eating not to worry. My son, who is 1 year next week, had a serious gag reflex...he wouldn't eat cereal until 7 months (and we started at 4 months). He also had issues with the stage 3 foods- I think, for him, he thought "if it's being offered on a spoon I can just swallow it without chewing" (I found the Stage 3 foods that were mostly pureed but with a few random chunks to be problem-causing and he'd throw up!) He also did the same if we were at a restaurant and had them give us a side of mashed potatoes or something mashed- if it was too thick, up came the whole meal. However, when I pureed my own foods and had it liquidy but left it a little chunky he did fine- because the chunks were uniform throughout and he realized he had to chew. You could try gradually working your way up to that point if you can puree your own, maybe? I've also heard that some babies just don't like textures (and others don't like textured purees)- if you keep offering finger foods she will probably just start getting curious and eating them when she's ready. Every baby is on her own schedule- keep trying and she'll be chowing down on everything soon!!

As far as introducing finger foods- does she have any favorite purees? If it's sweet potato or butternut squash you could cut up tiny bits of those- cooked really soft...or if she likes banana you could do little bits of that (or another fruit) just so she gets used to chewing. It's possible that she doesn't like the cheerios or other hard things b/c she has more teeth coming in?

Good luck and hang in there! :)

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