Hoarding Food in Mouth- 2Y/o

Updated on March 29, 2010
A.S. asks from Vancouver, WA
9 answers

our 2 year old daughter has been hoarding food in her mouth almost consistantly for the past few months. she did this when she was younger but only with apples. now she does it no matter what food it is and will hold it in her mouth and hoards it for as long as over night. somedays this happens several times a day and other days she will not do it at all. she doesnt know how to spit it out and she refuses to swollow it. she has now lost several pound since this became a daily thing.

some background-
we recently moved to our own apartment after living with my mother for over a year. my husband is also a dialysis patient and is often sick.

has anyone had this happen before? how long does it last? should i do anything to change it?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you need to talk to the pediatrician. The hoarding it overnight scares me! Good luck! (Mt son had the typical "chipmonk cheek hoarding" but he didn't keep it in there for any significant length of time.....)

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answers from Denver on

It could be a sensory issue - my youngest stuffed his mouth as full as can be for the longest time. Even though he is almost 4, he will still chew up crunchy foods like carrots or apples but not swallow them.

From experience, I've found that pediatricians in general like to take a "wait and see" attitude when it comes to developmental issues. You might consider contacting your local Child Find office to see if they will test her or perhaps guide you toward resources. You might also consider looking at this website for information:


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answers from Seattle on

A child i use to nanny did this, we would make his brush his teeth after each meal, and do a finger sweep and clear his cheeks. Eventually it stopped. Be consistent and follow through. Like rules- You cant leave the chair, couch table whatever until your mouth is empty. But dont be over controlling because they will rebel back. Use a more laid back, consistent approach.

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answers from Boise on

Are you sure it's "hoarding" and not that she cannot swallow? There are medical reasons for not being able to swallow food. I think low Iron levels are one of them. Another is low magensium levels.

Try giving her baby calm(with magnesium) . you can find it online. it might give her loose stool, you just cut back the dose a little. it is safe to supplement.

Iron is tricky, don't give her a supplement without a clear dr's test of deficiency. Extra iron is almost worse than not enough, and even deadly, so that is why you need medical supervision/testing with an iron deficiency.

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answers from Boston on

My son (2 1/2 yrs old) did the same thing for a long time! I can't remember exactly how long, but it must have been at least 3-4 months. Not every time he ate, but a lot! My concern was choking. He knew how to spit it out though, but wouldn't always do it. Can you have her open her mouth and you can sweep it out with your finger? If she does it overnight, it can't be good for her teeth. What if you give her a drink? Maybe it will help wash it down. I don't have any great advice, but it has recently stopped on it's own, so hopefully that will be the case for you.
Good luck :)

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answers from Seattle on

Personally, I would ask my pediatritian what to do. And I would definately be brushing her teeth and checking her cheeks after each meal to get it out especially at night... thats scary! The whole choking thing would make me want to be very proactive about this type of problem. Good Luck!

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answers from Dallas on

This is actually a more common behavior than most people think. It's called pouching...here is a little information...

"Children who pouch may carry food around in their cheeks for hours. It's not a health hazard unless they go to sleep with it. In that case, they risk choking if the food comes loose. Since the food is inside the cheeks, it isn't necessary for children to open their mouths fully for you to clear it. Getting your son to laugh or talk to you or making funny faces together in the mirror may unclench his tightly closed mouth long enough for you to sweep the food out with your finger.

Although this phase will pass, look for a pattern in the foods your child pouches. For example, if it is usually meat, serve it ground up in spaghetti sauce or chili rather than in hard-to-deal-with patties or slices.

If a child over 4 pouches frequently, there may be some underlying emotional stress or physical problem. In that case, see your pediatrician."

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answers from Portland on

I think this requires some professional input. What she is doing is not healthy as you've already noted. If she can't spit it out but spits out other things, such as tooth paste then I suggest that you are dealing with an emotional issue. It would be normal to expect the possibility of emotional difficulties with this background.

If she can't spit anything out I suggest that she may have a developmental issue along with an emotional issue that is evidenced by not swallowing for hours at a time. Or perhaps she also can't swallow at times because of the size or texture of the food.

I strongly suggest that you make an appointment with her pediatrician.

I think that some children do hold food in their mouth because they are learning about how that feels but I've not heard of any child keeping the food in their mouth for extended periods of time. Even if holding the food is normal, losing weight at this age can be a symptom of something serious; therefore do not delay getting the appointment.



answers from Joplin on

yeah! my child had this as well, I was freaking out until I learned that this was also happening in other children to. my son would do this with meat and as mentioned earlier with apples etc. and would actually(like for example)he would try eating on a chicken nugget and put the whole thing in and chew on it for what could be like 30 minutes or more and during that time I would try to encourage taking a drink and say come on honey lets go ahead and chew our food and you know sometimes in the end after all that time he would either spit it up or gag on it. he also had problems even younger than that,he had sensory problems and what it took for me is just easing into it and trying to get his mouth used to eating these foods gradually. he got better is now 4 and eats like a big man lol. it was hard and frustrating but me and other moms i know who had these issues all seen it pass,just be patient.