Gag reflex in babies and toddlers are quite a common occurrence. If you are facing a tough time feeding your baby due to this problem, then you must go through this article. Here, we have discussed what causes a gag reflex and how it can be controlled.
Gag reflex is triggered in babies and toddlers when the soft palate at the back of their throat is stimulated by milk or food particles. As a result, their throat gets choked completely and they push out the tongue. Thus the food inside the mouth comes out. Both newborns as well as older babies may have this problem. Gagging is actually a natural response of the body to prevent choking. It may not be a serious issue but it makes your task of feeding the baby a challenging one.
What Causes Gag Reflex in Babies and Toddlers?
The most common cause of gagging is putting too much of food into the mouth. Breastfeeding babies mostly gag when they suck out more milk than what they can swallow or the milk is flowing out faster than their sucking motion. Once they learn to adjust the sucking motion with the milk flow, they will stop gagging.
As your baby is growing old and you start offering them solid foods, they may gag in the initial few days as they are not accustomed to this new texture of the food. At times, they gag simply because they do not like the taste of the food that you are feeding them.
Toddlers get these problems mostly when you force them to eat more against their will. They will keep the food inside the mouth as they do not like to eat it. Now, if you put some more food in their mouth they gag. Toddlers also gag when they eat too fast. It often happens when they start eating on their own. Babies and toddlers induce gagging when they put some toys or fingers into the mouth.
Gagging while feeding may not worry you much but if it happens when you are not feeding them, then it becomes a cause of concern for you. Newborn babies tend to get a gag reflex all of a sudden when excess amount of mucous or saliva gets accumulated at the back of the throat. It mostly occurs to babies who are less than a week old. This kind of gagging can be a scary experience for any mother as it causes a lot of discomfort to the baby but they cannot identify the cause. At this point of time, the best cure is to help the baby spit out the mucous. For this, you can place them on your shoulder for some time to help them out.
Recurrent gagging can be a sign of some underlying medical condition. Gastroesophegeal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux is a common cause behind this problem. Infants get affected by this more because their esophagus is not fully developed. When the child is suffering from cold or allergies, then increase in mucous production could be responsible for a gag reflex.
Dealing With a Gag Reflex
You can control frequent recurrences of gag reflexes in your child with the help of a few simple measures. They are as follows:
- No matter what the age of your baby is, you must make sure that the child is relaxed when you are feeding him or her. Do not try to feed them in a hurry as it increases the chance of gagging.
- While bottle feeding, make sure the size of the hole in the nipple is small so that too much of milk does not flow into their mouth.
- While feeding them with a spoon, put only the tip into his mouth and avoid putting the entire spoon inside the mouth even if it is a small-sized spoon.
- Do not force your baby if he or she is not ready to eat. Rather, try to offer them such foods that they like to eat. Overfeeding should be strictly avoided.
- Solid foods should be given only after the baby starts sitting in an upright position and not before that. Put a small amount of solid food into their mouth to check if they are ready for it. If they throw it out of the mouth with their tongue that means they are not yet ready for it. Try it out after a few weeks.
- When your toddler starts eating on his own, cut the food into small sizes to avoid gagging. Do not give them small-sized foods like grapes, olives, nuts, popcorn etc. for the time being.
You may not be able to prevent gag reflex in small babies altogether but you can reduce the frequency of gagging by training your baby with proper care. When babies or toddlers gag so frequently that they cannot eat anything and have started losing weight, you must take them to the doctor to identify the exact cause behind the problem and get it treated.