There are many reasons a 9-month-old baby gags during feedings. Eating is hard work for your infant and requires the skills needed to swallow, suck and breathe all at the same time. It is also a very tiring task. Because gagging while eating is frustrating for your baby and sometimes has dangerous consequences, it’s imperative to understand why it occurs.
Too Much or Too Little Food
The flow of milk from your breast or bottle may come out too slow or too quickly, which often leads to gagging while eating. The initial abundance of breast milk or too large of a hole in the nipple is sometimes overwhelming for your baby. In addition, if you baby has not outgrown the reflex that causes him to stick his tongue forward when the back of his throat is touched, he may gag periodically when his mouth becomes full. Forcing your baby to eat when he is full or doesn’t want to eat also leads to gagging.
Many babies have difficulty with the coordination involved with breathing and swallowing while eating, which often leads to gagging. This can occur when your 9-month-old becomes tired toward the end of her feeding and loses coordination. To avoid this, give your baby smaller and more frequent feedings so that she doesn’t tire out too quickly. In addition, a feeding therapist can teach you ways to further develop the coordination needed to swallow and breathe while eating.
Acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also triggers gagging during your baby’s feeding. Problems like these arise when the stomach contents and milk travel backward up your baby’s esophagus, resulting in gagging, wet burps, vomiting, coughing and fussiness. This develops when the esophageal sphincter muscle does not close completely or relaxes when it’s not supposed to. Avoid gagging by keeping your baby in a vertical position while feeding. If this doesn’t help your doctor may suggest thickening his milk with baby cereal or prescribe a medication to block acid production.
Gagging, coughing or a wet sound to your baby’s breathing sometimes indicates that milk has found its way into the airways. Either your baby completely aspirates milk or fluid into her airways or it penetrates them and then is expelled when she coughs or gags. Unfortunately, if aspiration is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, bronchiectasis and failure to thrive. Pace feedings to treat aspiration and tell your doctor if you suspect this is the cause of your baby’s gagging episodes.