22 Month Old Refuses to Swallow Food

Updated on August 23, 2007
T. asks from Hamilton, OH
4 answers

I am at a loss here. My 22 month old refuses to swallow her food. This has been going on since she was 16 months old. Do i go back to feeding her baby food for her to eat better. At her 18 month checkup the doctor said this is normal and they do not know why kids do this but they are concerned of her weight. To use carnation breakfast drink to give her extra calories. She is not losing weight but does not seem to be gaining either for not only her not swallowing her food for four hours but because she is very very active. I want her to swallow the food for a few reasons 1. she can't take naps or go to bed with food in here mouth. 2. it is gross when she is trying to talk to someone and she still has food in her mouth. 3. not sure if she is getting enough nutrients. 4. it takes so long for her to eat that we run late for alot of things or we have to cancel. She does not go back to doctor for two more months and i don't know what to do. Does anyone have any tricks or suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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answers from Dayton on

Ok I wrote out this long response and then hit the back button on accident...
My daughter is 22 months and will sometimes not swallow the last bite of food for a while. She seems to eat OK now (minus the food in mouth thing) but has had her fair share of feeding issues. Is your daughter doing this with the first bite or is she at least eating some and then doing this? It may be normal and just a way of showing control over something.

First I would ask your dr if you can get a referrel to a speech or occupational therapist to evaluate if she is actually having problems or if it is a normal control issue. Or you can get with the Early Intervention program in your county to have her evaluated for free and if you qualify financially, you can get some help for free too ( I believe).
The website is http://www.ohiohelpmegrow.org/default.aspx - the program in ohio is Help me Grow. They came out to the daycare I guess once a year and evaluate all the kids.
Anyways, I just looked at their website and saw they have lots of advice on feeding....
This one is particularly interesting....

Number one is do no stress about it or talk about how much she did or didn't eat in front of her. I guess they can take this a few different ways - as you doting over them, or they see it as control issue. I remember it being hard not to worry though! But we have just kept at it. We provide her the food and it's her job to decide whether to eat it or not. We can't force her - again the control issue.

My daughter can also take a long time to eat. One of the books I read said it is not unreasonable to set a limit on the length of the meal - I think he said most meals should be done in 30 minutes. At that point you take away the food, pretty soon she will get the point that she needs to eat when she is hungry. I know this will be hard for you because you are concerned with her weight, but if she is healthy she will eat when hungry.

Also see if you can find some books at your library about this topic.... I did and a lot of it was reassuring and helpful.

Take care and I hope this passes soon for you!

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answers from Cleveland on

T., my 23 month old is doing the exact same thing! It's so good to know I'm not the only one. My daughter was such a good eater and now my son...it's a struggle at every meal. In addition to be a picky eater/swallower, my son also has a ton of food allergies. He is allergic to peanuts, gluten and eggs which severely limits his diet as is. Then I make him a perfectly good meal and he starts the not swallowing thing. Is your daughter chewing and swallowing anything with texture at all? Does she gag on her toothbrush? I had talked to our pediatrician about this because we're in the same boat. My son isn't losing weight but isn't gaining a ton either. Sometimes I think he is surviving on air! The doctor told me that as long as my son has shown that he has the ability to chew and swallow some solid food even if he only does it on occasion, it's most likely more of a control issue than anything. He told me that whatever I do, not to go back to strained foods as this is setting him up for future feeding issues/rejections. He actually gave us some suggestions to get more nutrients into his diet with Carnation Instant Breakdfasts, Fruit and Yougurt Smoothies, etc. I also talked to a dietician since our son has so many diet constraints due to the allergies. The key is to keep re-introducing and not force. I totally empathize with you about the not wanting them to go to bed with food in their mouths and how gross it is after a few hours having them spit a 1/2 chewed piece of whatever out. We did try making our son sit at the table and swallow before he got down, but he'd sit at the table til bedtime and then I'd have to let him spit it out and then go to bed anyway, which resulted in a lot of frustration for us and exactly what he wanted for him. At any rate, I would say it's just a phase. But I absolutely agree that if it's a continued concern to you, I would discuss it with your doctor, even if you need to call before the next appt. And both my kids were preemies so if you would feel better talking to a therapist to make sure there are no real feeding issues present, I would absolutely say that finding out more about that from your doctor would be a good thing to do. We used the Help Me Grow program when my kids were born and they were great! The bottom line is that you need to do what is right for you. Don't stop until you feel good about the answers you are getting. Remember, you know your daughter best. Good luck to you! Here's to some better eating for both our kids! :-)



answers from Cleveland on

Do you let her get up from the table without swallowing? The 2 yo I babysit for was doing this, until I made her show me that she had swallowed before letting her get down. It took some time (and frustration, honestly) but she understands now. I explained to her that it wasn't safe. (I wouldn't let her whine or cry about it, either, BTW, if leaving her there brings a reaction)



answers from Cincinnati on

Personally because your daughter is not gaining weight and will put food in her mouth but does not want to swallow it. Does not sound like a speech or feeding problem. I would suggest seeing a GI specialist to make sure there is nothing going on in that aspect. It's possible that it hurts to swallow, so she doesnt let it get that far. My son has a disease called Eosinophilic Esophagitis, where basically his body attacks food like an invader, he's basically allergic to food. (Not saying she has this) It hurts his esophagus so he didnt want to swallow food either. He didn't lose weight either and thats why the doctors blew it off like he was ok.(Prior to being diagnosed) Then finally at 15mths he still weighed the same as he did when he was 8mths old. Then they decided to look into it. If it goes on for much longer, I would definitely seek another opinion or just to be on the safe side ask for a referrel to the GI. Request that you want an EGD done. That will check her esophagus and her stomach.

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