Mommy's Little Chipmunk.

Updated on August 19, 2013
M.C. asks from Louisville, KY
12 answers

My DD has this incredibly annoying habit of storing food in her mouth.

Seriously, it can be an hour after we eat and she will STILL have that last bite in there. She has done this most of her life (she is 3 now) but stopped for several months. She started it up again last week, and I really want to get her to stop.

Before, I wouldn't let her leave the table until she swallowed it. Now, that doesn't phase her. She just sits at the table and chills out. Even when I put her in a time-out somewhere else, she is content to sit and hum/entertain herself. I have also tried bribing her with dessert... Which works, but I am NOT willing to have to give her a treat after every meal just to get her to swallow her food. :/

I'm really not sure where else to go with this, beyond just removing her from the table and making her spit it out... But I hate the idea of turning THAT into a habit.

She does not have any developmental delays that would cause this.

Any ideas?

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So What Happened?

I have tried having her take a big drink... She has mastered the art of drinking while storing the food. Lol.

We don't brush after every meal... We brush when getting ready for the day (after breakfast... But she doesn't usually store that anyway), before nap time, and during our bedtime routine. Brushing after eating might help the problem, but it would mean having her get into the habit of spitting out the food in her mouth; which is something I want to avoid.

I also don't have her clean her plate... I also hated that as a child, so when she says she is done, I let her be done. So long as she eats a proportionate share of the veggies on her plate, I let her control what she eats. :)

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answers from Miami on

My son did a bit of that. Peanut butter and bacon! (Not together...)

Just take her to the bathroom and wash her mouth out. Don't talk about it, don't make a big deal out of it. She's getting a lot of attention from you and that's not a good idea. She's also refusing to do what you've asked and by just sitting there, it's her way of controlling you.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Norfolk on

Don't feed her so much.
We did the 'hold the food in the cheeks' thing too.
We had to clean our plates but we were full - how else were we suppose to get out of there?
Give her a smaller plate or bowl and don't heap it up with food.
If she wants more, offer her a small 2nd helping.
'Clean your plate' never worked very well.
Don't do meals like this.
Toddlers often go through phases when they are between growth spurts and don't eat as much.
Once they start shooting up again or are running around more, they want more food.
Just go with the flow.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have to laugh, because reading your post reminded me that my oldest daughter used to do this as a toddler. We would tuck her into bed and realize she had something in her mouth - it would be a chunk of meat or something that she'd been chewing like gum for HOURS. Yuck! We started making her open her mouth to show us she wasn't hiding anything before she could get up from the table after dinner. After a while, she stopped trying to "chipmunk" her food. ;)

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answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter did that. We laugh about it now. I just pretty much ignored it as being an "issue" and had her spit out whatever it was into a napkin in my hand. She didn't do it to be excused from the table, she just did it sometimes. (not ALLL the time, though).

I remember once she had a grape in her cheek. She had finished her grape snack like an hour before. I asked her what she had in her mouth and she just looked at me... so I held out my hand with a napkin and she spit out the grape. It was warm. GROSSSSSSS!

She just stopped one day. She has always been a rather picky eater. And is usually the last one at the table. But we don't make an issue out of it. She doesn't store food in her cheeks anymore either. :)

Of course, big brother couldn't help but call out "eeeeewwwwwGrossss!" when she spit out a warm grape. LOL

And really, if it is the last bite and she is finished eating, why not just have her spit it out? Why force her to swallow it? I don't really see the point. Just use a napkin and move on. Unless she is using it to manipulate not eating her dinner. But that doesn't sound like what you are describing.

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answers from Chicago on

My daughter also did this at age 3. She is pocketing her food. I learned from a speech pathologist that it is most likely because 1) her jaw gets tired while chewing the food so she just stores it and 2) once her jaw gets tired she no longer has the sensation of food in her cheeks. The therapist worked with my daughter on strengthening her jaw and stimulating the eating sensation. She no longer does it, but we do break meat or tougher foods up for her if she starts to struggle, and we give her less food or just one serving at a time.
I did this as a child. No one knew any better and my parents forced me to " stay at the table and finish" I never did. Now as an adult I have TMJ, cannot chew gum, and get headaches from tough foods. Talk to your pediatrician and ask for a referral because this is a specialty for a speech therapist. Good luck! Hope this helps :-).

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answers from Boston on

Just ignore it. She does it because you pay attention to it. When it's in her way as she's up and about, she'll finish chewing and swallowing. Really just stop paying attention to it at all and she'll get bored with this game. She's not going to choke because she has the last bite of dinner stored in her cheek.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

This too shall pass.

Have you tried having take a drink of milk?

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answers from Chicago on

My son has developmental reasons for doing this, but he has grown past the habit. Steak and oranges were his favorite. Because choking is a concern he had to stay seated while doing this. He does not stay seated for long well, so he move past it after a week or so of making him stay at the table. It seems your child has no issues and this will not work. I wonder if a swallow study might help - talk to the Pedi about this habit, it can not be good for the teeth. Our OT and ST were both equally concerned and his teeth health were part of the reason - along with the choking hazard and a few other issues specific to him. So, in short I would talk to the Pedi and see what they have to say, this could be a simple phone conversation.

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answers from Austin on

Do you not have her brush her teeth after every meal?

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answers from Washington DC on

My nephew used to do this. It was really no big deal. Eventually he swallowed it or spit it out. He's 34, tall and handsome and eats very well now, by the way. I would just make sure it is out by teeth brushing time or bedtime so she does not choke.

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answers from Raleigh on

At the end of the meal maybe tell her that we are going to start brushing our teeth right after supper instead of at bedtime, I heard it is better to brush off all the food right away. When she is done eating and take her to the bathroom and then you both brush your teeth. See what she does. Act like you don't know she has food in her mouth and see if she swallows or spits it out. Maybe she will swallow it. It's worth a try. If she spits it out, try to ignore it and not react. It is possible she is enjoying the reactions she is getting out of you. If she makes a mess, have her clean it up but show no anger - just act matter of factly. Good luck.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Make her open her mouth and look inside before she leaves the table. This is bad for her teeth.

Milk rot is where a child has a bottle in their mouth all night, the milk continuously drips onto the teeth and the saliva does not get to do it's job of rinsing the mouth. If a person drinks milk and swallows it their teeth don't rot from it, it's the constant supply of milk that rots the teeth.

This is the same concept, the food in her mouth is prohibiting the saliva to rinse her teeth off after eating. The food is sitting there eroding her enamel and basically decomposing (part of the digestive system) so she does have an urgent need to get this out of her mouth.

It sounds like this is a battle in the making. If you want to protect her teeth, keep her from possibly choking to death from this food not going down right while she's in another room, etc....then you have to take a stand and make it an issue/battle/war. This is not a simple "I'm not going to mind you" thing. This is a health issue that she cannot do. It's that simple. Make her open her mouth and show you inside her cheeks. Then take her straight to the bathroom and watch her brush her teeth. She needs to be broken of this habit, it's not cute, it's not safe, it's bad for her teeth and it's gross.

Take the stand mama, she is young enough that she can be broken of this but you have to take the stand and decide it's not going to happen and make that work for you.

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