Q: Every time I give her food [usually soup or rice and dal blended together], she throws up after sometime. Why does this happen and what should I do about it? Secondly, I put a diaper for her all the time. My friend tells me that because of this, my daughter will get used to the diaper and if I don’t get her out of the habit soon, she won’t be able to pass stools without it. Is this true?
— Sara Khan via email
A: These are two different questions and I will answer them separately.
- There are many reasons why children throw up. One of the main reasons why a one-and-half-year-old throws up semisolid or solid food is that s/he has not yet learnt to chew and mash the food with the teeth and to gulp it slowly, bit by bit. Usually, when the mother puts the food into the mouth, the child automatically swallows the entire mouthful. While this is fine with milk or water, with semisolids, some part of the food gets stuck in the throat and activates the gag reflex, which leads to vomiting. Many children actually learn to voluntarily vomit every time food or medicine is given. The same child might actually be able to easily eat a biscuit or chips without choking and vomiting because she has learnt to chew and slowly swallow those things. So, a child learns two methods of eating. One: to swallow anything that is given in the mouth; two: to slowly bite, chew and swallow bit by bit. With time, every child learns the correct art of eating and swallowing and the vomiting disappears. This problem is temporary and will settle down by the time she is about two years old. However, if the child is not passing urine and stools well and not gaining weight, it is better to get the child checked by the doctor, and eliminate the incidence of any actual disease of the stomach and intestine, which might occasionally be responsible for vomiting after feeds.
- Diapers are convenient and do not prevent the child from learning to pass urine or stools in the correct manner. However, it is a good idea to stop using the diaper by the age of two, and slowly toilet-train the child so that the child learns to identify when she gets an urge to pass urine or stool. She will then also learn to indicate the same to the mother. Hence, diapers are not bad but should be discontinued at the right time—before the child starts feeling that it is fine or normal to pass urine or stool in the diaper, even after gaining control over the bowel and the bladder.