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How can I get my toddler to stop "storing" food in his cheeks?

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We are currently trying to get our 13-month-old son to eat table food and are having some troubles. He will take the food but then tends to "store" it in his cheeks, not chewing or swallowing it. Once he gets a lot in his mouth he won't eat it or let us try to fish it out of his mouth. We have tried mashing it up, mixing it with soup, and finger pieces to no avail. Is there anything we can do to correct this so that he will eat enough?


What your child is doing is called "pouching." Children your son's age are sensitive to tastes and textures. A strange food, too large a mouthful, or a yucky texture such as chewed meat may trigger pouching. Sometimes children are persuaded by their parents to take "just one more mouthful" and then keep it in their mouths because they really didn't want or need that mouthful. In fact, the most revealing part of your question is that you're trying to get your 13-month-old to eat table food. Maybe he isn't ready.

Children who pouch may carry food around in their cheeks for hours. It's not a health hazard unless they go to sleep with it. In that case, they risk choking if the food comes loose. Since the food is inside the cheeks, it isn't necessary for children to open their mouths fully for you to clear it. Getting your son to laugh or talk to you or making funny faces together in the mirror may unclench his tightly closed mouth long enough for you to sweep the food out with your finger.

Although this phase will pass, look for a pattern in the foods your child pouches. For example, if it is usually meat, serve it ground up in spaghetti sauce or chili rather than in hard-to-deal-with patties or slices.

If a child over 4 pouches frequently, there may be some underlying emotional stress or physical problem. In that case, see your pediatrician.  

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