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Infants and Self Induced Vomiting

Question of the Week

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Updated October 09, 2004

Q. I am aunt to a 7-month-old baby girl who has recently been observed forcing herself to vomit. She will stick her fingers all the way in her mouth and force herself to vomit. Sometimes she repeats this behavior a few times in a row and other days it will only happen once a day. The baby does not seem to feel bad or unhappy after she does it, but is content and shows no signs of distress. She has recently started eating solid foods and has a normal appetite. She is a content baby but did display colic as a newborn and younger infant. I am not familiar with cases self-induced vomiting in young infants. Could you provide any information about what this condition could be? Thank You. Carbondale, Illinois

A. This is often a normal behavior and would not be considered a sign of an eating disorder at this age.

In an infant that is otherwise growing and developing normally, as long as you don't reinforce it, it should eventually stop.

How would you reinforce it? For example, you could:

  • get very upset, overly excited, or mad
  • aggressive in telling her to stop doing it
  • keep pulling her fingers out of her mouth
Doing any or all of these things could turn what is likely to be a normal developmental phase that could quickly pass into a long term problem.

Instead of making a big deal out of her vomiting, it would be better to stay calm and clean her up matter of factly and pretend that nothing happened.

It may also help to distract her and keep her hands busy if it seems like she is getting ready to make herself vomit, and keep her on a routine for meals, naps, and a bedtime, to make sure that stress isn't contributing to this behavior.

Other signs that this might be more of a medical problem might include that she wasn't eating well, was having trouble starting solid foods, was not gaining weight well, or if she was often fussy.

Even without other symptoms, if it increases or persists, a visit to her Pediatrician would also be a good idea.

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