My son is 16 months. He eats everything we put in front of him and is not fussy at all. He took to weaning amazingly - its me that is struggling big time. I struggle with anxiety and one of my main worries (ever since weaning) has been him choking. Whenever he gags (which I know is fine) my anxiety goes into overdrive and I have all sorts of scenarios play out in my head. So please PLEASE no horror stories on this thread as my anxiety can not take it!!

Basically my son often doesn't chew his food properly and tries to swallow big mouthfuls. He doesn't always do this and most of the time he eats fine. Sometimes he will do it with his sandwich or croissant and he will look like he's struggling and it's got stuck and either keep trying to swallow it or gag it up. Is this normal for his age or should he be chewing properly and not gagging now? I cut most things up quite small for him unless it's really soft. I still cut apple and cucumber slices really thin because I'm worried he won't chew them properly and try and swallow them and then start choking. It's almost as if hes a little bit lazy with it. When he was younger we gave him a breadstick and because he didn't chew it properly he tried to swallow it and the sharp bits got caught in his throat which resulted in a coughing fit. Will he learn in time or am I doing something wrong?

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    Just "for fun": I'm 69 (years, not months). About 5 years ago I had a C4-C5 spinal fusion. Just about every consequence of this was extremely positive. However, it seems my throat must now be somewhat narrower "part of the way down" . The maximum size food portion that will "go down" has been reduced noticeably. While 5 years on I've largely learned what my new limits are this is not always the case and I occasionally find myself gagging on food and wholly unable to swallow something that would have gone down with ease previously. The occasional very embarrassing moment has occurred :-) :-(. Jul 11, 2020 at 1:32
  • It seems that breadsticks might actually be the best thing to teach him to chew properly. They may be a bit painful, but are less dangerous than more solid foods such as apple or pear. I would continue with the breadsticks until he learns.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 12, 2020 at 14:13

5 Answers 5


This is a normal, age appropriate behavior. He'll get better with time and practice. As scary as it is, gagging from over filling his mouth is how he learns about appropriate bite size and chewing. It was frequent experience when my child was that age, and still sometimes happens, although far less often as he got older, and is rare now at 3.

For my son, I didn't try to discourage spitting out food as a toddler (this aspect of manners can come later). I told him, "If it's too big, spit it out and try again with a smaller bite". The ability to push something out of the mouth when it's not able to be comfortably swallowed is also a valuable safe-eating skill, and it's normal for babies to practice it even if not appetizing to witness during meals. As he got better at eating, I didn't have to say this as much, first because he would spit out too-big food on his own before gagging, and then because he knew not to take huge bites and how to chew.

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    To this day sometimes when I stick a melon cube too big in my mouth that I still try to get my teeth to try and cut it down at the edges first before spitting it out. Heh.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 9, 2020 at 19:42
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    Honestly Meg, thank you so SO much for your answer. It has put my anxiety at ease considerably knowing that it's normal!! Sometimes he does spit it out, other times just tries to re swallow it straight after gagging it up. I'll try and encourage him to spit it out in future. I'll just keep going as we are.
    – Penny
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:13
  • What age did you introduce things like crackers and rice cakes? Everyone says how they are good for weaning but for me he would just bite some off and not chew it properly. Thinking I should just leave it for now and just feed him the foods we are both comfortable with? My main concern is when he's with someone else and they try to feed him something he's not good with. I'll just have to set out a list 😏. I know it's mainly my anxiety playing a part in all this and hopefully I'll be able to get some help for that soon! Honestly though thank you for your answers, I feel so much better now!
    – Penny
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:14
  • @DKNguyen My most memorable experience from my end-of-school university entrance exams is that I took too large of a bite from the sandwich I brought to the written French exam, gagged on it and it took several embarrassing uncomfortable minutes until I somehow managed to chew it enough to be able to swallow. At least I didn't have to spit it out. :D So yes, happens to everyone.
    – Nobody
    Jul 10, 2020 at 9:50

I've been amazed at how much my 3 kids have learned by mirroring. Are you eating with your baby? It might help him to understand what he needs to do by seeing you eating face to face with him. Even possibly you could consider really exaggerating the chewing motion so he sees what to do.

I wouldn't be surprised if he even started copying you without being at a meal time if you just made eye contact then mimed chewing.


I was nervous about choking too. While many of my friends and colleagues went the BLW route, I started with purees. I think at 16 months I was not yet comfortable giving my baby a piece of apple that wasn't thinly sliced.

As another answer said, choking and gagging is totally normal, this is how they will learn right sized bites. One thing that helped ease my anxiety was to get really comfortable with the baby Heimlich Maneuver. That helped me feel confident that I'd be able to move fast if she were really choking.


No matter how he looks, or what sounds he's making, if air is going in and out, he's breathing, which means he's fine. It's not comfortable to hear your kid cough, but if they are coughing, it means air is going in and out, so they aren't in danger.

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    I understand the intent behind this post, but I don't think it's appropriate here (as it is clearly medical advice) nor do I think it's truly accurate 100% of the time.
    – Joe
    Jul 9, 2020 at 22:45
  • This type of thinking is akin to "He's fine, until he's not" IMO.
    – Ellesedil
    Jul 11, 2020 at 14:46

If you're really concerned and feel like you need a second opinion, you can consider looking into and/or asking your pediatrician about feeding therapy: https://napacenter.org/how-does-feeding-therapy-work/

My youngest had difficulty leveraging his tongue properly to move food around when eating, which would then lead to choking on even purees and really small pieces of food. This was something that feeding therapy was able to help with. Depending on what the actual problem is with your child, feeding therapy may or may not be useful.

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    Thank you! I'm not overly concerned, I did ring a health visitor (not mine as it was out of hours) and they said it was perfectly normal and as long as it wasn't every meal time I shouldn't worry too much. It put my mind at ease a little.
    – Penny
    Jul 12, 2020 at 8:54

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