I am a first time parent to a beautiful bouncing baby boy 18 months old that is having a few delayed developmental problems (which I have seen many other parents having the same issues and are using the tips suggested to them). One of which is that he is absolutely refusing to eat solid foods of any kind. He still eats the level 2 pureed gerber foods and the nipples on his bottles are still the newborn nipples for slower flow. He gags on any thing solid or if his bottles formula comes out faster than a drip.

This started when he kept putting whatever he found around him, little specks of something, anything (dirt, paper, crumbs, thread, and the such) in his mouth when he started sitting up and crawling. He would gag on it and me being a first time mom I would freak out maybe a little too much, but his father would literally lose his mind too. But because of this we think this is the real reason he gags any kind of solid food I attempt to introduce to him. I have gotten a little better at how I react to him now, but his father thinks he is a perfect parent and knows everything cause he has already raised on child all by himself, and will still react to anything our son does (gagging for instance).

My husband wanted me to quit trying any solid foods at all of any kind and just put rice cereal in his food each sitting and that will apparently solve everything. It hasn't, so while my husband is at work, I have been trying everything from wafers, to yogurt melts, to even shortbread cookies and my son has been not eating them yet, but not gagging on them either. For 4 days straight I would hand him a small round shortbread cookie and showed him how he can nibble with his front teeth and suck on it to get it a little soggy and he started doing it. I would just leave him alone but really watching him out the corner of my eye, and he would actually start making maybe a tiny bite or two into the cookie then put it down for awhile and maybe pick it again later and lick it or just throw it to the dog, either way I feel I was starting to make real progress until I decide to hand him is daily cookie with daddy in the room....the boy takes a big bite of the cookie unlike he has ever done, immediately is gagging, harder than I have ever seen him gag, and then pukes thick mucusy stuff, and of course my husband is livid that I would even give him a cookie, but much less a big round hard one and then turn my back on him like I was trying to choke him on purpose, and yet another example of I have no clue what I'm doing cause I've never had kids before.

I feel that my son only did that gagging episode just because his father was there and he sees the attention he gets when he does that, or am I being a bad mother and trying to force something that I have no clue about? I should probably add that I am 37 years old, and my husband is 10 years older than me with a 21 year old son (who still lives at home with us).

  • What happens with the rice cereal? And have you tried Gerber level 3 foods, and what happens with them?
    – Warren Dew
    Sep 14, 2016 at 6:43
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    Have you discussed the gagging issues with a pediatrician or nutritionist?
    – Acire
    Sep 14, 2016 at 11:10
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    Have you ever tried regular fruit instead of cookies and cereal? Bananas, tomatoes and tangerines make excellent practice foods.
    – Erik
    Sep 14, 2016 at 14:20
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    I think this is something you need to discuss with a pediatrician. Based on what I read, I initially thought that maybe it was because of how you and your husband have reacted. However, the fact that he still has to use newborn nipples is very concerning to me.
    – L.B.
    Sep 14, 2016 at 17:31

3 Answers 3


Please get to a pediatrician and get your child tested for B12 deficiency immediately. About 25% of people in the USA are deficient, and infants of parents that are low in B12 themselves and were breastfed are especially at risk as the infant never developed reservoirs of B12. B12 is often low in diets that do not have animal products (vegetarianism - tempeh and spirulina are supposed to be rich in B12 but really they are analogues that bind to the B12 receptors and leave the individual at a loss for B12), diseases of the autoimmune system like celiac disease or Crohn's, etc. And it doesn't have to be a diet deficiency. There are many things that can go wrong in the human body to block B12 absorption.

This is easy enough to fix with a B12 injection, but time is critical for infants and can easily lead to brain damage if left untreated. I'd get your child in tomorrow if possible and ask not only for the B12 test but also just ask for the injection of methylcobalamin (B12 form). It won't hurt the child to have it (water soluble vitamin that will simply get urinated out if not used), but sometimes the B12 test can be thrown off by certain foods. And you may see remarkable recovery with the injection. A urinary MMA test is cheap and very effective at showing a B12 deficiency.

Difficulty in swallowing is a very common issue with B12 deficiency. If your child is B12 deficient, they may need injections periodically. That's why you want the B12 and urinary MMA test first to prove the deficiency.

One last thing, the US standards for blood serum B12 are 200-1800 ng/L, but other countries are using the Japanese studies and the higher ranges as the standard. Infants should really be above 1000 ng/L because they are brain building, but if your child is below 650 ng/L, they are low and need supplementation. I'm celiac and I supplement B12, and I have a hard time keeping mine above 700 ng/L. I suspect that with the difficulty swallowing, if it's B12 deficiency, you will see scores from your infant that are in the 100-400 range. That's far too low.

Edit: And I didn't include that you and your husband are not at fault for delayed development issues. You are seeing them now. You are taking action. Don't beat yourself up over this, please.

  • For information about Vitamin B12 deficiency, a quick summary is on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12_deficiency For the Japanese study numbers see citation #44 on that Wikipedia page. Difficulty swallowing in children is cited on pg 243 of Could It Be B12? by Sally Polochok R.N. & Jeffrey Stuart M.D. excellent book and very well cited throughout. Urinary MMA test preference on pg 11 of Polochok book.
    – ScotT
    Sep 15, 2016 at 2:10


focus on finding the solution to the issues.

Parents do many things for their children out of love, or out of fear, that may not be the best developmentally for their children and it can be extremely difficult to change those behaviours but you can definitely do it.

Personally we started feeding our child solids at 6 months following principles in baby led Weaning. Part of this process was accepting the fact that our child was going to gag on things, and we would have to put up with extra concern from Aunts, Grandparents, etc. We've never had a serious chocking incident (child is now 18 months).

Part of us is convincing yourself of the need to learn things we take for granted. Chewing food is a skill, chewing food with your mouth closed is another skill (we watched countless pieces of food fall out of Bubs mouth while learning this skill). You wouldn't expect a baby to learn to walk without falling and or talk without babbling first so don't expect your baby to eat perfectly right from the beginning.

Another part is having the skills to deal with issues, if you haven't taken any sort of child first aid I would suggest doing so and making sure you have a good understanding of what to do if your child does choke.

So all that being said I would also 2nd the comment to talk to a pediatrician or a nutritionist. At 18 months most are on solid foods and cups so it is worth discussing with a professional the route forward to ensure your child learns these important life skills.

I'm not a Dr or anyone with any special knowledge just a parent who's gone (going) through it and realizes they are times you will be scared, or frustrated, or confused and that some encouragement and sometimes some professional knowledge with get you through the tough times.


It may possibly be that your child is triggered to gag at the memory of being scared by the reaction of adults panicking when he choked, and the fear of your husband's reaction triggers his choking, but it is also very possible that your son is now gagging on purpose.

Kids love to discover that they can do things that make adults react. Everyone has the need for the power to affect the world around them, and kids, having so little real power will grasp at any source of powers even if it feels unpleasant (gagging can't be any fun).

My daughter used to do the same thing when she was about that age, although she would just do it any old time, sometimes when she was in bed and she wasn't ready to sleep and she got bored. She would make the most terrifying gagging noises, but after we caught on to the fact that nothing was wrong and stopped running into her room in a panic whenever she did it, the behavior gradually stopped.

Either way, consulting a pediatrician is a good idea. If there is actually a medical problem which is causing your son to gag, it needs to be addressed, and if it's a behavioral issue, your husband might be more receptive to hearing it from a professional. It sounds as if he has emotionally invested in being the "experienced" parent and always being right when you have a disagreement over child raising, and once that happens it becomes a pride issue. Find a professional to mediate...maybe if the doctor agrees that the gagging is a psychological issue that could be a lead-in into some family counseling, which is something I'd recommend even for healthy marriages.

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