Oral hypersensitivity

Oral sensitivity is not uncommon in babies and toddlers, and it needs to be nipped in the bud. Here's what Dr. Diane Sacks suggests

Q: My 17-month-old son is not adapting very well to textured food, and gags very easily. He shows few signs that he chews any of the chunky baby foods that I feed him.

A: It sounds like your son has oral hypersensitivity. This is not an uncommon problem. While we don’t know the cause, it’s seen more commonly in babies who have experienced tube feeding due to illness as newborns. Although many children outgrow it, I suggest not waiting to intervene, as it can become entrenched and interfere with good nutrition.

Start by getting him used to toys that touch his face, then toys that go in his mouth. Try a soft toothbrush and let him mimic you using it. Offer room-temperature food, thickening the texture gradually by mixing in cereal or even instant potatoes. If you feel you’re making little progress, see your child’s doctor. You may need to get help from an occupational therapist or speech therapist who specializes in this issue. Just remember to take it very slowly and stay calm.

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