2 Yr Old Chewing, but Refusing to Swallow Food

Updated on December 27, 2014
J.K. asks from Los Angeles, CA
13 answers

My daughter is 2 years and 5 months. Since about three days ago, she has been chewing, but not swallowing her food -- even foods that she used to eat well like apples. I've found mashed up food in her mouth 30 minutes, sometimes an hour after she first put them in her mouth. When I notice the food in her mouth after that long, I just have her spit the food out. When I notice her doing it at the table, I tell her that she can't leave the table until she swallows the food, but she's so stubborn I've given up after 30 minutes and have had her spit it out. She's not doing this because the food I'm giving her is especially tough.

She has never been a good eater, and has had some texture issues in the past, but she's never done this before. The only thing I could think to do was to take dessert away if she doesn't chew and swallow her food, but it's not really working, and I don't know what else to do. I'm at a loss. My husband told me that he was told he did the same thing when he was a toddler. Is this just a phase? What should I do?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thank you for your responses. I recently had her evaluated by early intervention, but did not mention her food texture issues or the fact that she pockets food (bc at that time, she wasn't pocking food). The report is still in the process of being prepared so I guess I'll just bring it up with her doctor once it's sent to her, and in the meantime, I will stop forcing her to swallow.

Featured Answers



answers from Boston on

Please, never create a power struggle over food. Ever. The results may be a short term win, but you will be teaching a very bad lesson. Children should not eat to please anyone. They should eat because they are hungry. This was not about her disrespecting you, but in making it an order to swallow, it has escalated to a battle. Please help her, by letting her spit food out without any special negative attention. Make her eating an enjoyable, loving time.

6 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Norfolk on

Could be a phase but it could also be teething, ear infection, tonsils.
I'd have her doctor check her out.
If the doctor says she's fine, then just ignore it as best you can.
She's swallowing something and won't starve herself.
My sister use to hold food in her cheeks.
Her records was well over 2 hours.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

What are you doing about the texture issues? Is she seeing a feeding specialist on a regular basis? An OT? A speech therapist? Any of these 3 (if they have special training) can help with this.

It is SO IMPORTANT to get her help. I knew a child growing up who had these issues and his diet was incredibly restricted - you would not believe his terribly self-limited diet.

Just because your husband was able to come out of this "phase" doesn't mean your daughter will. Go get her help.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

This is called pocketing food.

It usually occurs bc of undeveloped or weak jaw muscles.

My daughter had this at the same age. She was being evaluated by a speech therapist who brought this to my attention and educated us. She was wonderful, and to this day still holds a place in my heart :-).

She was referred to us from Early Childhood Intervention (EI), and we had to wait for her bc this jaw issue is a type of specialty.

Prior to her working with us I had the same issues with my daughter.

Please don't punish her anymore until this has been evaluated. It could be something or could be nothing, but let someone trained tell you. I would start to keep a record of the good she struggles with.

FWIW, I had the same struggle as a child. When my mother served meat or tougher foods they would make me sit at the table for hours until I finished. I rarely did. The reality is I couldn't, but there was no awareness then.

As an adult I still cannot eat certain foods or they trigger migraines. I have TMJ. I cannot chew gum, taffy apples or those thick pretzels without suffering from a headache or even sometimes a migraine. If mine would've been caught I might not have those problems.

Please see a pediatric speech therapist for a consultation.

Our situation is so much better. When I serve food she struggles with we have a safe, simple, healthy option that she can 'pick' so she feels like she has some control but we decide the parameters.

ETA : She may be struggling with 'mashed' or soft food if her jaw muscles are tired from eating other foods earlier in the day.

ETA2: she does not pocket anymore, she is more comfortable with new foods, and she identifies when a food is too tough for her so we cut it up more.

Kids also 'forget' about the pocketed food because the nerves in the cheek are not as developed.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Make sure it's not teething, sore throat, etc.

Then just back off. Tell her to spit it out when you notice, because you don't want her to choke.

This is not worth a battle, and food shouldn't be a battleground.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that if you stop paying attention this will resolve it's self. No matter the cause that started her to not swallow this is now a power struggle. It is very important to not make food an issue by demanding compliance. Eating and pooping are the only actions over which a child has control. The parent will not win.

I urge you to ignore this behaviour.

I have an 18 month granddaughter who frequentry hold food in her mouth. I ignore it and she does eventually swallow or spit it out. I suggest that holding it is a part of exploring her world. What the food feels like when held is likely what she is checking out. At times I think my granddaughter just forgets to swallow. When I hold up another morsel and say that she can have it when her mouth is empty she usually swallows. If she doesn't I think it's because she's full. I put her on the floor and then she swallows.

This is certainly not worth a fight. Since this is new behaviour I doubt that it's serious. If she's had texture issues previously she may have discovered that chewed food has a different texture. I seriously doubt there is a reason for concern.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

Lol. My daughter used to do this around that age, and it drove me NUTS! I fought her on it for the longest time too, until I gave up and just told her to spit it out.

She did stop on her own. Honestly, I don't even know when because when I stopped making a fuss over it, it stopped annoying me. The only thing I did was to tell her to go spit it out when I noticed it to protect her teeth.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My grandson did this, too. He's always been touchy about food textures, and eating issues run in the family on both his mom's side (I have been dealing with increasingly strong food texture aversions for the last 10 years) and on his dad's, so it could well be hereditary. And I can tell you from first-hand, recent experience that an over-chewed mouthful of food becomes increasingly unappetizing over time and more chewing. I cannot swallow sometimes, and have to spit out my food; it would be a horrible situation for me if I were forced to swallow those "problem" mouthfuls.

Anyway, Grandboy just turned 9, and over the past year his food avoidance problem did become critical, and appears to be part of a deeper pattern of anxiety (in his case, but probably not the problem for all poor eaters). He's slender anyway, and was losing weight. His parents got him evaluated and he's now seeing a pediatric behavioral psychologist to deal with the problem. It is not easy, but they are looking for root issues, and he is doing better. Thank heavens they have good health insurance.

My grandson's health team has stressed the importance of keeping meals calm, pleasant, and free of pressure, so forcing foods is not recommended. Coaching him on taking smaller bites so his senses are not overwhelmed has been helpful.

I wish you a good solution. It might be simply a phase, as your daughter is learning to eat a larger variety of foods.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Phase, or sore throat, or teething, or any number of things.

She absolutely cannot leave the table with food in her mouth though. That is a severe choke hazard. Just see how much she eats then when you notice she is holding food in her mouth she's done.

Help her by letting her spit it out so she can leave the table

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My daughter lost weight after she went off formula and onto solids at age 15 months or so. Baby food was fine. So we stuck with mashed food longer and also added Pediasure under the guidance of the pediatrician and a nutritionist. She had always been in the 15% for weight after that. For a while she was at 1%. She is 14 now, still very slender. Never really hungry, eats very small portions but drinks a big glass of milk nightly (it replaced the Pediasure at age 10).
Also, my daughter would eat the same thing breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3 weeks straight and then switch. The pediatrician said it was fine as long as she also drank some juices or after fruits.
Now at 14 she eats almost everything, just in tiny portions more frequently, and often separate. She will eat a roll after school. Then an hour later a piece of cheese. Then a mandarin. Then some olives. Etc etc.
I would not force food but find something she does like and make that for her, even if it is many meals in a row.
But see the doc to confirm there is nothing else going on. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

This sounds like a Sensory Issue and maybe some type of fear issue as well. I would have her checked out by an Occupational Therapist. These are the people who work with Sensory issues and Feeding Clinics. I have 2 kids who I would LOVE if they tried to get new foods in their mouths.....but we are so many many steps away from that! Generally to get an OT you just need a referral from your doctor.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

It could be a phase, or some variant on her eating issues that you are already aware of. If you haven't had her evaluated regarding her texture issues, you might consider it in light of this new habit.

My daughter (a picky eater, but not a texture thing, more stubborn than anything really) went through a brief phase similar to what you have described. She would get up from lunch with a grape still tucked into her cheek. I'd notice it a half hour later and she would spit it out in my hand (in a napkin, b/c eww).. and it would be warm. I don't think she forgot it was there, and I never really figured out why she did it. She never said, but thought it was funny when I "discovered" her chipmunk stash.

After a few months she stopped.
She's a teen now, and still fairly stubborn and picky about foods. And she still does odd things for attention, from time to time as well. :P

I wouldn't punish her for this, but you might consider starting a "mouth check" before you excuse her from the table after meals or snacks. I'd be concerned about her possibly choking on something more than anything else. That's what I started doing with my daughter. It stopped being fun eventually I guess.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Could her throat be sore? If this is a fairly recent thing she might have a sore throat that makes swallowing hurt.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions