Gag Reflex & Vomiting in Children

Some children gag and vomit. If your child has a similar response to some foods, talk to her doctor. She may have a sensitive gag reflex, which the doctor can discuss with you. As you introduce new foods to your child, you will have to be careful about introducing combination baby foods with meat and vegetable bits. With some imagination and patience, you can help your child learn to tolerate textured foods more easily.

Hyperactive Gag Reflex

If your child gags easily, then vomits, he may have a very sensitive gag reflex 1. Normally, the gag reflex is a protective response to prevent your child from aspirating something that could cause him harm. However, if your child is eating something relatively smooth, such as mashed potatoes, and he encounters a lump or an unmashed bit of potato, he is surprised by the feeling. His gag reflex kicks in and he may vomit.

Textured Foods

When your child eats smooth or pureed food with no lumps, she has no problem taking the food into her mouth and swallowing it. When you transition her to a food with a little more texture, she begins to have problems. She begins gagging, turns red, then throws up. While regular applesauce may not seem problematic, it has a little more texture than a stage-one baby applesauce, and this may cause a problem for your child.


If a bit of a new food touches the back of your child's throat, where the gag reflex is located, it can stimulate the gag/vomit cycle. This is scary, not only for you, but for your child. If he is still an infant, this may lead him to refuse to try new foods with any amount of texture. He may get around this issue by spitting out lumpy bits and swallowing the smooth foods.

Chewing Issues

If your child is older and does not seem to have any problems accepting foods with texture, such as peas, chicken or mashed potatoes, the gagging issue may come from chewing problems. When he puts a piece of food into his mouth, he may chew it a few times, try to swallow, then begin choking on the food. He then gags and may vomit. If your child has motor skill delays, this may extend to delays in learning how to chew properly.

Helping Out

Slowly add texture to your child's food. Instead of introducing, for example, whole graham crackers all at once, crumble a graham cracker into small crumbs, then mix the crumbs into your child’s smooth food. Allow her to become used to the new texture. As she adjusts to the new texture, add additional crumbs. You can also add wheat germ to her food to get her used to texture. If your child is still an older baby or if she is a toddler, give her a solid that dissolves quickly. Zwieback crackers and baby cookies are good choices, although they are messy. If she still mouths her toys, give her toys that have some textures to them, so her tongue gets used to the feel.

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