Rumination disorder is an eating disorder in which a baby or young child brings back up and re-chews food that has already been swallowed. The re-chewed food may be swallowed again or the baby may spit it out. This behavior happens in children who had previously been eating normally.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. For some children, the act of chewing is comforting. Infants who are neglected, abused, or ill may develop this behavior. It may be a way for your child to gain attention.
Symptoms may include:
Bringing up food starts within minutes of a meal and may last for several hours. It happens almost every day after most meals for at least a month. Bringing up food seems easy for the child and rarely causes retching. Some infants may make unusual movements. These include straining and arching the back, holding the head back, tightening the belly muscles, and making sucking movements with the mouth.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your healthcare provider may do X-rays and blood tests to check for physical causes for bringing up food. The healthcare provider may also want to observe your child during and after eating.
Treatment mainly focuses on changing your child's behavior, such as:
Habit reversal training helps your child become aware of when he’s about to bring up food and re-chew it. Then your child does what is called a competing response. This means that, for example, when your child feels like he needs to bring up food, he would take a deep breath and feel it expand his belly. The muscles used to do this make it impossible to do the old habit at the same time.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.