Gag Reflex

Updated on June 07, 2010
M.L. asks from Lynden, WA
8 answers

My 11 month old daughter has a really bad gag reflex. I don't know what to feed her, and am scared to try new foods for the fear that she will choke. She's getting better... but there is no way that I can just put food on her tray and let her go at it because she will shove it all in her mouth and choke. Do I just need to let her learn how much to feed herself and stop being paranoid? We have all the Gerber Graduates puffs, yogurt melts.... etc.. and have tried some of the Graduates Meals... but she just doesn't like them. They make her gag...

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So What Happened?

So I havent been on for a long time!!! My daughter is now 19 months old and eats like a champ!!! She is particular about what she likes, but doesn't gag anymore!!! Thanks for all the advise!!!

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answers from Spokane on

Hi M.,

It's a good thing that she has such a bad gag reflex. It is what keeps her from choking. My son is the same way. Remember, she is only gagging, not choking. I put a few pieces of food on my son's tray, and I watch him closely. I would say that you probably do need to let her self feed more, and as she gets accustomed to eating chunky food, the gagging will stop.

I was the same way with my first baby. If he so much as threatened to gag, I yanked the food away, and he did not get it again! I was so paranoid! I just didn't understand that he was only gagging. Anyway, I know this is scary, but try not to worry. I give soft cut up fruit almost every time I feed my son. I also give him dry cereal, crackers, tiny pieces of cheese, arrowroot cookies. When we sot down to eat, he gets most of what I'm eating, just in smaller chunks. He is 10 months old. Don't worry-if you give her a variety, she will learn! It's an exciting process, and sometimes funny, but mostly scary! Good luck : )


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answers from Cincinnati on

Developmentally the gag reflex starts at the front of the tongue and moves towards the back of the tongue as you get older. Gagging is a way to protect yourself from choking. Some children do have a hypersensitive gag reflex. That being said some children gag because of decreased oral motor skills (e.g. inability to move tongue side to side, decreased ability to chew, decreased ability to use cheeks). if your child is having a hard time managing certain foods (e.g. foods with lumps, thicker foods, easy to dissolve foods etc) and you have concerns about her feeding than I would recommend that you get a referral from her pediatrician for an evaluation by a pediatric feeding specialist (either occupational therapy or speech therapy – depends on where you live). The earlier you can get you DD in the easier it will be to help her.

Good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

In addition to the advice you've already received I highly recommend not giving her processed chemical filled pre packaged baby foods. Why not make your own? Soft foods like spears of yam or give her a strawberry or pear to gnaw on. Also google 'Baby Led Weaning" and gain support from other mamas with babies learning to eat finger foods and dealing with the scary gagging. It's normal, so don't worry about that. She's learning.

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answers from Joplin on

I have had alot of experience in this area with my now 4 year old son,it does get better and I seen you said it is starting to already, so that is good. but,trust me I know how you feel my son was extremely sensitive. actually he had symptoms of the sensory disorder look this up. they are sensitive not just to taste,but texture ,sound...etc. he is a really good eater now and sometimes eats us out of the home,lol. but there was a time where just smelling banannas could make him gag or a little piece of cracker on the tip of the tongue would gag him. it was a bad case so if he can change so can she. there is speach therapy specialists that can help at this. you just have to get the mouth desensitized so to speak.

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answers from Seattle on

Put small amounts of finger foods on her tray. I used thawed peas, carrots, etc. for my daughter. She just love picking them up with her tiny fingers. She ate so many her skin turned yellow and her eyes white. Her doc commented on it and said he knew that she love her vegetables! She is now a vegetarian!



answers from Portland on

I agree with Mommy of 1 and Kristi. Your daughter could be having difficulty because of a sensitive gag reflex and just needs practice to get the hang of it or she could have a sensory processing disorder.

My grandson still shoves his mouth full of food. However, he didn't gag. But he didn't eat much sometimes because his mouth was too full for him to swallow. He has a sensory processing disorder. He also has a speech learning disorder. We didn't find out about this until he was over 2. It would be most helpful to have this diagnosed earlier if this is what she has.

Mommy of 1 mentioned getting the help of a speech therapist. A speech therapist does know how the mouth, tongue, throat work and helps my grandson with forming words. He also has a occupational therapist and she is the one who helps him learn how to do things. I don't know which specialty gagging would fall under.

I suggest getting an evaluation to set your mind at ease if you think sensory processing disorder is a possibility. The school district does evaluations without charge under the No Child Left Behind federal law. They actually evaluate babies shortly after birth on into school age. You can find all sorts of information on this subject on the Internet and in books. In the library look under special needs children. On the Internet google sensory processing disorder.


answers from Eugene on

Please stop feeding your daughter that over salted non-organic food. She needs small bites of good vegetables, meat and fish if you eat it, and fruit.
I fed my children organic food for which I am glad though the cost was greater than the processed foods. I did not pay doctor bills. They were seldom sick. Later on I made my own granola and left jars of it available in the cabinet.
People in 3rd world countries chew their children's food at the age your child is. I'm too western for that so I got a grinder to make my own puree and also cut food into very small pieces.
I put a few pieces down on the high chair at a time. This prevented stuffed mouths and overturned bowls.
Relax you seem like a good mom. You are doing what you need to getting advice from other mother's who have been there.



answers from Eugene on

My older son was like that. I always figured if he gagged easily then nothing was going to make it far enough down his throat to let him choke. It is disturbing to see, but the easy gaggers aren't usually on the verge of choking, rather they are having a strong reaction to a taste or texture.
The ones i worry about choking are the kids that seem unaware of what is in their mouth and with just shove waaaaay too much without realizing it.
Sorry to say it, but this might be a way of life for awhile. :) My older son is 5.5y and still has texture issues with food, not long ago a small bite of steamed carrot made him gag and puke just b/c of how it felt on his tongue.

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