• Help with Feeding

What to Do About Gagging

Whether your baby is working on purees or table foods, gagging is likely to be part of the experience as she gets used to new textures and flavors and continues to develop chewing skills. It is very important to know the difference between gagging and choking and to respond appropriately! Gagging looks like this:

Table foods can be a scary step for anxious parents. When babies are learning to chew food, it is not unusual for them to have some difficulty maintaining control of the food in their mouths. With practice and support from you, they can work through those brief moments and get control of the food (or spit it up or out). If your baby is choking, she will not be able to move air or make any noise, such as coughing. In that case, of course you want to intervene! However, remember that reacting to gagging as if your child is choking can in turn make her fearful of eating and prevent progress with her tolerance and management of different foods.

Remember these three important tips to help with gagging during mealtimes:

1. Let your baby be in control. Whether this is with her hands, a spoon, feeding tool, or a piece of food, encourage her to self-feed and explore purees or table foods at her own pace. Gagging and mismanagement are less likely if your baby puts the food in her own mouth and uses her natural instincts to manage it. Recovery from gagging and mismanagement, along with your support, will be also be quicker and less scary.

2. Allow mealtimes to be messy. If your baby is working on chewable foods, she will likely use her hands to help her break it down and may end up spitting it out and even putting it back in her mouth several times. You might also notice that a ton of food ends up in the seat of the high chair. This is part of the learning process and will get better!

3. Model eating as you share a meal with your baby. Babies learn by watching and while she sees you chewing, you can also remind her what to do with her mouth if she struggles a bit. Typically developing babies have protective mechanisms (gagging, expelling, etc) for a good reason, so give her time to work it out while she watches you show her how to do it.

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