As you and your baby continue to explore the world of solid foods, you may come across a time when your little one stuffs a lot of food in their mouth. Seeing this can be naturally worrisome for any adult, but don’t worry, we will explore this issue today in detail. Let’s go!
Stuffing food in the mouth is a common occurrence among toddlers, and we’ll shortly examine why they do this. Closely related to food stuffing is a more serious concern that’s known as food pocketing. While the behaviors may be similar, the ways to resolve them are very different.
Understanding Food Stuffing and Food Pocketing
Food stuffing occurs when babies continuously put food in their mouths, only to realize it's too much to handle and subsequently spit it out. This behavior is normal and part of their developmental process as they learn to navigate their mouths.
Food pocketing refers to the act of storing food in the mouth without swallowing or spitting it out. Unlike food stuffing, food pocketing is not a typical behavior and may indicate underlying issues. It is recommended that you seek advice from a medical professional if your baby consistently displays food pocketing behavior.
Why Do Babies Stuff Food?
1) They’re mapping their mouth: Babies stuff food in their mouths as they learn to understand the boundaries and capabilities of their oral cavity. It allows them to explore how much food can fit in their mouths, how to move it around, and how to use their tongue effectively.
2) They cannot gauge the size of their mouth: Sometimes, babies struggle to gauge the appropriate bite size, resulting in larger bites than their small mouths can handle. However, if your baby can manage the food comfortably, it is usually not a cause for concern.
Tips to Prevent Food Stuffing
1) Serve smaller portions: Offering less food or smaller portions on their plate or bowl can help babies start with manageable quantities. Gradually increase the portions as they become more comfortable with chewing and swallowing.
2) Model chewing and swallowing: Demonstrate proper chewing and swallowing behaviors during mealtime. Sit in front of your baby, deliberately and slowly take bites, chew the food, and then swallow. Exaggerate these actions to encourage learning through imitation.
3) Use a spoon: Instead of using their hands, provide babies with spoons to slow down their eating process. Using a spoon limits the amount of food they can scoop at once.
4) Offer sips of water: Encourage your baby to take sips of water between bites to slow down their eating pace if they have been eating too quickly.
5) Practice responsive feeding: If you are spoon-feeding your baby, only place the food in their mouth when they willingly open it and are receptive to the food. Avoid force-feeding, as it can create negative associations with mealtime.
6) Teach them biting: When you’re offering larger chunks of food, hold it directly at your baby’s mouth and position your thumb or finger at the midway or halfway mark. Break off the piece as they bite into one half. This way, babies learn to take smaller bites and eventually start doing it independently.
What Can You Do When Your Baby Has Stuffed Food in Their Mouth?
So, your baby has managed to stuff their mouth with food. Don't worry, here's what you can do to help them out:
1) Stay calm: First and foremost, stay calm. Panicking can make your baby anxious too. Take a deep breath and approach the situation with a cool head.
2) Encourage spitting: Model spitting (physically demonstrating how to spit using your own mouth) so it encourages your baby to spit out the excess food.
3) Offer water: If there is still food remaining in their mouth after spitting, offer your baby sips of water. This can help them swallow any leftover food gradually.
4) Avoid putting your finger inside: Refrain from using your fingers to retrieve the food from your baby's mouth. This action may push the food further into their throat, posing a choking hazard.
As you’ve seen, stuffing food in the mouth is a common practice among babies, as they are still learning to map their mouths. However, in case you observe food pocketing behavior (sometimes babies may store food in their mouth for hours), please consult your doctor or a medical professional immediately so they can help find the underlying issue that’s bothering your little one.