Why Do Babies Stick Their Fingers Down Her Throat? How Do I Stop it?

By Maria Wilcox •  Updated: 07/12/22 •  8 min read
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Why do babies stick their fingers down their throat? Rest assured we know how frustrating a baby or toddler that does this can be. From the ongoing gagging sounds to the fear of your child actually throwing up, a child sticking fingers down their throat isn’t much fun.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can curb this behavior. With just a little insight and a few tricks in your back pocket, you may be able to put an end to this peculiar behavior once and for all. 

baby fingers

Why Does My Baby Gag Herself With Her Fingers?

Your baby likely gags herself with her fingers because she is experimenting with the concept of cause and effect. 

Believe it or not, your baby picks up on more things than you think. She or he realizes that every time they stick fingers down their throat, They gags. The fact that your baby has control over this process is likely stimulating and engaging to her, hence why she does it over and over. 

On the flip side, there are other, more mischievous reasons some babies and toddlers stick their fingers down their throats. If you notice your baby doing this at times when you aren’t paying attention to them or when they are doing something they don’t want to (such as taking a nap) then you may notice your baby doing this more often. 

In this way, you can think of your baby gagging him or herself as a result of trying to garner attention. Still, it is very important to get to the bottom of what exactly your child is trying to communicate with you. It could be that he or she needs more of your attention than what you are currently giving. 

Why Does My Baby Shove His Hands in His Mouth?

A baby that shoves his or her hands in their mouth is usually simply a sign of teething. This gesture is much different than the often intentional gagging that some babies and toddlers often engage in. This innocent chewing is usually a way to relieve aches, pains, and discomfort caused by new budding teeth. Chewing the fleshy parts of their fist helps to relieve the pressure a bit. 

baby chewing

Why Do Babies Gag Themselves: Age By Age

3 Month Old Baby Sticking Fingers Down Throat

A three-month-old sticking fingers down the throat may not be intentional. At this age, your baby may be teething, but if not, the finger chewing may simply be normal mouth exploration. This is a common occurrence at this age and is nothing to worry about.

If, however, your baby continues on with this behavior as they age and it is causing them to gag and throw up, you may wish to find out why your baby is performing this action by seeking advice from your local pediatrician. 

Why Does My 1 Year Old Stick His Fingers Down His Throat?

1 Year Old Gags Himself With Hand

A one-year-old that gags himself with a hand or fingers could be doing so for a variety of reasons. 

It could be that your little one is bored and is seeking ways to entertain themselves. Once your child discovers that he or she can autonomously cause themselves to gag, it is likely that he or she will want to do it over and over again!

In addition, your one-year-old could be trying to garner attention from you. Remember that kiddos this age will take attention any way they can get it. This includes both positive and negative attention. In this way, your one-year-old may realize that every time he or she performs this action, you react. 

Whether you are scolding them or laughing at them, both are forms of attention that your child may wish to experience again; especially if they feel like you’re not noticing them at the time.

toddler with fingers in mouth

18 Month Old Keeps Sticking Fingers Down Throat

An 18-month old sticking his or her fingers down their throat is likely doing so as a means of exploring cause and effect. This means that the child is experimentally performing an action to see what will happen next. 

Since gagging is a fairly uncomfortable and unusual reflex, it may be that your child becomes fascinated with his or her reaction and wants to do it more and more. 

Along with this, your toddler may be signaling to you that something isn’t quite right. Sometimes, we as parents get carried away with our daily tasks and forget that our toddlers need our time, too.

Still, it can be hard to keep your toddler contained while also getting done what you need to get done. So, what should you do? Try the following tips to keep your toddler feeling loved and cherished while you also commit to tasks that need to be done in your everyday life:

  • Child-Proof Your House: This one is a given. But honestly, you probably have done way less child-proofing than what is actually needed to keep your kiddo from hurting themselves. If the thought of your little one pulling over a shelf or knocking over something costly and sharp off of a table is taking over your thoughts, it could be that you need to revamp your living space. Make it safer for your kiddo. Doing so will keep you from feeling like you have to contain your little one so much. They’ll appreciate the freedom to move around as they should. 
  • Take Them With You: Yes, you can get stuff done a lot faster with your child contained. But part of your daily responsibilities is letting your child know you see them and that you care. Therefore, as you go about your day cleaning and running errands, make a conscious effort to involve your child in whatever you are doing (as long as doing so is safe). This includes cooking, shopping, cleaning, you name it—simply give your child an age-appropriate version of your own tasks and you’ll be surprised at how easy it will be to bond with and entertain your child as you continue on with your day!
  • Contain Them For Only a Short Period: Lastly, we recommend that if you do have to contain your child in a high chair, playpen, or other device, you only do so for 10 minutes at a time for no more than two times per day. When doing this, give your child something he or she can only enjoy during this time, such as special toys or library books. They will likely begin to look forward to this time and won’t be as likely to gag themselves. 
why do babies stick their fingers down her throat

Why Is My Toddler Sticking His Fingers Down His Throat?

Why Do Toddlers Make Themselves Gag?

Toddlers often make themselves gag by sticking their fingers down their throat as a form of entertainment. This may become a fun little pastime for your little one. It may cause even more awe and wonder if they can actually cause themselves to vomit.

Moreover, as previously mentioned, toddlers at this age are smart enough to figure out how to get attention from you. So if they want it, they know which stops to pull out to get it. Therefore, you may experience your child engaging in odd ball behavior, one of which might be sticking his or her fingers down their throat.

And though this behavior is benign (for the most part) it may also signal that there’s something that your toddler desperately wishes to communicate.

New teeth incoming!

4 Year Old Keeps Sticking Fingers Down Throat

A four-year-old sticking fingers down their throat is likely just doing it for kicks or reasons already mentioned.

If it bothers you a lot, talk to them about why they’re doing this. At this point you can communicate with your child. Talk to them to make sure it isn’t for reasons like stress or lack of attention. 

Why do babies stick their fingers down her throat – FAQs

Why Does My Baby Gag Herself With Her Fingers?

Your baby likely gags herself with her fingers because she is experimenting. Perhaps your child is also curious by the unpleasant gagging feeling. Or it could be they are bored and want your attention.

Why Does My Baby Shove His Hands in His Mouth?

A baby that shoves his or her hands in their mouth is usually simply a sign of teething.

Baby Sticking Fingers Down Throat? There Are Many Reasons Why! 

While it is impossible to pin down all the reasons your baby or toddler could be sticking their fingers down their throat, the truth is that babies and toddlers at different ages often do this for varying reasons. We hope this post has shed some light on what at least a few of those reasons are.

See you next time!

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Maria Wilcox

Former instructor with an M.A. in Education turned grateful stay-at-home mama to one, I look to share helpful insights related to babies, toddlers, kids, and families for the benefit of real people just like you.

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