SUBJECT: Toddler forcing himself to vomit
My son is just over 2 years old and has always been a good eater, who is willing to try new foods. He began vomiting every day at lunch at about 1 1/2 years old. Tests were done and luckily there were no obstructions that were causing this. We were advised to leave it alone and it would likely pass.
Recently, the vomiting has started again but this time he seems to be forcing himself to gag and then vomit whenever he does not want something. It can be at the beginning of the meal or at the end of the meal. He will do this with food that he likes as well as food that is not his favorite.
I am careful with his portion sizes and make sure that I am not overfeeding him. Sometimes he will tell me that he "wants to barf" and will proceed to vomit or other times leave it at just the verbalization of vomiting. I have tried to explain why this is unhealthy but lets face it…he's two! He will tell me that I have to clean it up so I have tried to delay cleaning him up immediately to see if it will have any impact. No luck there. I am at my wits end with what to do.
Has anyone had this trouble or ever heard of anyone with this trouble? Help!!!!
I dealt with this situation with twin boys this summer in the UK. They went to psychologists, behavioral specialists – absolutely everywhere and spent thousands of pounds/dollars. What it actually was, was behavior that had been fed through the reaction and response from the parents. They would not want something to eat or finish their food quicker than necessary so would use the vomiting as an excuse, and the parent's reaction is what was key to this.
The parents would clean up the vomit and then get extremely cross with the kids and that would create the spasm more and the stress and anxiety would cause them to be sick and have to leave the table and the child basically got what they wanted because the vomiting caused a distraction. It's just another way, instead of a child hitting or having a temper tantrum, they get their way through vomiting.
As parents, it's quite a scary situation to see your kid vomiting, especially if they're choking and vomiting. It certainly has us feel quite nervous especially when taking babies from weaning to foods, because sometimes they start to gag, but the reality is that it's all psychological.
What I would do is change things around. Sit them at the table; don't give any attention to the vomiting. Give them a choice of things to eat and talk to them between bites to distract them. If they do vomit, I would put them back at the table to continue finishing off what they're eating because they're only using the vomiting as an excuse to leave what they were doing (that they didn't like) beforehand. With the twin boys I worked with, it stopped in two days. It's all behavior and it has a response that's immediate.
Let's face it, you're right, he is two years old, he's not going to understand when you explain why what he's doing is wrong. But I would say it is also good for him to have small meals and have them often and put the plate down and have a conversation about things that happen during the day. If you start to see the gag reflex happen, don't look over, because as soon as you start to watch, he will have an audience.
You could also give him little paper plates and draw the things you want him to eat and let him choose which ones he wants to have.Don't worry about him saying you have to clean it up, but don't immediately change his top — but do put a bib on him, so it'll save you on your washing!
Good Luck, xJo