Recognizing Dysphagia in Toddlers


Does your child seem to choke on the food they are eating more often than not? Have you heard them choking but you know they are not eating anything so how can this be? Maybe they cough a lot while eating. If you have answered yes to any of these questions then they may be suffering with “Dysphagia”. Dysphagia which means difficulty swallowing, can be pretty scary at times.

The two types of dysphagia include:

  • Oral– problems with using their lips, tongue and mouth to control liquids and foods
  • Pharyngeal– refers to issues in the throat during swallowing liquids and foods

 As soon as our youngest was old enough to start eating solids we noticed he seemed to always choke on his food. It was actually pretty weird because he would do okay on crunchy food but had a hard time with liquids and soft textures. There would also be times that I would hear him coughing and choking, knowing that he wasn’t eating anything and I would come a running to him to make sure he was okay, wondering how could this be?

After bringing up my concerns with his doctor he was scheduled for a Modified Barium Swallow. It was actually a pretty neat process. It consisted of him eating different textured foods and drinks while they used an x-ray to see how his mouth, tongue and esophagus was handling the food and drink. The test didn’t take long and our son didn’t seem to mind it at all. We didn’t think they had found anything wrong but was told that he actually has mild dysphagia at the oral stage and also has a delayed swallow reflux. Now I started to understand why all this was going on when he would eat and drink. I asked them why does he also have a hard time when he’s not eating anything and they said he could be choking on his saliva.

Their recommendations were for him to take smaller bites, chew thoroughly and swallow before taking another bite. This is probably easier for an adult with dysphagia to do but with a baby or toddler we as parents have to make sure that their food is cut up super small and make sure they aren’t trying to shove a whole bunch of crackers in their mouth at one time like my little guy likes to do.

Now that we know he’s got dysphagia and delayed swallow reflex we have been taking measures to make sure his food is cut smaller and he swallows in between his bites. Things have been going much better while he eats and now this momma doesn’t have to worry so much.



“This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. I’m by no means a doctor but a parent sharing their personal experiences.”

  • Mommy Peach

    Thank you so much for sharing about Dysphagia. It’s the first time I’ve heard of this but it’s something we mommies should definitly know about.

  • Melanie

    I haven’t heard of this before, but it’s good information for parents to be aware of. So scary, but helpful to know what it takes to help kids with the issue.

  • Erin

    This is such valuable information! Thank you for sharing it, I’ll be sharing this with my mommy friends for sure!

  • Lynndee

    Totally unaware of such disorder and the thought of it scares me. Thank you for the info and it’s good to know that you’re not worried that much anymore.

  • Ashley

    I never knew about dysphagia! My dad, myself, and my daughter “choke on [our] spit” as we call it, I wonder if that is a much lesser version? My daughter has to take very small bites to avoid getting strangled on her food!

  • Ann BAcciaglia

    I have never heard of dysphagia before. What a scary thing to experience when your klds are little. Thank goodness your doctor realized what may be wrong and did the right tests.

  • Krystal

    This is a helpful article! I’m going to need to reference it since I do have a toddler!

  • Michelle @ Dishes and Dust Bunnies

    This was a very interesting post – I’ve never heard of this problem before so it’s good to know for when I have more kids. Glad you figured out what the problem was!

  • miranda (myrabev)

    I don’t have kids yet but I can only imagine how scary it must have been not knowing why he was choking glad it’s been diagnosed now

  • Roselynn

    I have never heard of Dysphagia so I’m very thankful to be reading about it now. I have no children right now, but it’s never too early to start learning about these things.

  • Rosey

    It’s nice when you get the diagnosis and know what’s exactly wrong. Makes it easier to make things easier for the littles, for sure (like cutting up the food into small pieces).

  • Sharon

    How can I be this old, have six kids and have no clue what dysphagia is? I swear I’ve never heard of it, but I am so glad they found out the issues with your child. Wow…weird

  • Chubskulit Rose

    My kids did not have any of these when they were little but I am so glad I learn these info though. I think this is what my younger had when she was a kid but she was never diagnosed with anything.

  • Jeanine

    I’ve never heard of that before. That is interesting to learn. I’m glad you now know!

  • Chrystal @ YUM eating

    I have never heard of it. My husband is the medical person in our family. His family is all medical. He found this rather interesting, of course he had to chime in to the parts he knew.

  • Alysia from My Domestic Dish

    This is such an interesting read, as I hadn’t heard of this before…
    Is your son going to grow out of that and be just fine later? Thanks for posting this- it’s something that all Mamas to the little ones should watch for!

  • Digna

    I have never heard of that before. Never good when something is wrong with a child. I’m glad you found out the problem.

  • Nina Say

    This is such a scary thing to have happen. I could not imagine, thank you for sharing this information.

  • Jenn

    Very interesting. I have never heard of that before! I hate it when the babies are sick and can’t tell you what is wrong! I’m glad you DR listened and acted!

  • Jacqueline

    This seems like it would be insanely scary before getting a diagnosis! I’m sure any mom would be frightened about their baby not swallowing correctly. This is something I had never heard of– learned something new today!

  • breanna

    This is something that can be a great eye opener for all moms out there. It is something that can be very scary but being aware can save! Great share.

  • Terry

    Okay, so this is something like the problem I was having (sort of). I would choke on my food and even slobbers. I started doing lung exercises that seemed to clear mine up.

  • Ricci

    Great post! I’m glad you finally know what’s going on and can help him!!

  • Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    I have never heard of Dysphagia before. Wow, how scary. This is going to help a lot of people.

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