Gagging in Babies: Understanding the Natural Reflex Day 1: Gagging in Babies

Gagging in Babies: Understanding the Natural Reflex

As a parent, it's natural to feel anxious about your baby's safety, especially when it comes to introducing solid foods. Gagging is a common reflex that babies experience as they transition to solid foods, but it can be alarming for parents.

Let’s look at what gagging is, why babies do it, and how to manage it.

What Is Gagging?

Gagging is a protective reflex that occurs when food triggers the back of the throat where the airway is. This reflex helps to bring food up and stop the swallowing reflex, protecting the baby from choking (choking is very dangerous).

While gagging may be scary for parents, it's a completely normal response that helps babies move food from the back of the throat to the front of their mouth, where they can maneuver the food.

Common Signs of Gagging
  • Watery eyes
  • Red face from straining to push the food out
  • Open mouth with the tongue thrust outside
  • Some type of sound like retching, crying, or coughing being made from the mouth
  • Gagging can sometimes lead to vomiting

These are all normal responses and are usually more traumatic for parents than the baby!

Why Do Babies Gag?

Babies can gag for a variety of reasons. It could be that your child is experiencing a texture or size of food they aren’t used to. 

Or perhaps, it’s a very familiar food type and size, but they’re just having a hard time moving food around in their mouth. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Gagging is a natural part of learning how to eat solid foods, and it helps babies to develop their oral motor skills.

Babies usually gag more in the beginning of solids. But with time, increased development of their oral motor skills, and practice with various solid foods, babies typically outgrow gagging after a couple of months of starting solids.

What to Do If Your Baby Is Gagging?
  1. First, stay calm and do not panic. The baby's body is designed to protect itself, and gagging is a part of that natural protective mechanism.
  2. Second, do NOT put your fingers in their mouth. This can actually push the food back and make the situation more dangerous.
  3. Third, smile and let the baby work through it. The baby will automatically know how to handle the food, and interfering can cause more harm than good.

We know it’s hard to stay calm and you might feel helpless, but remember that gagging is one of the most common reflexes that children develop when they start on solids. Tomorrow, we will learn about choking in detail (what foods can cause choking, how to prevent choking incidents, and first-aid response in case of a choking event).