Why Is My Toddler Sticking His Fingers Down His Throat?

Before we go into details, let’s make a few things clear.

If your toddler has been sticking his fingers down his throat, then there’s a high chance it’s one of those gross behaviors usually exhibited by infants.

On the flip side however, it could be a call for help.

Perhaps the baby must’ve swallowed something hard or too big and it’s stuck in his throat.

Or maybe his throat is just itching.

So as far as anyone can tell, those are the major reasons infants stick fingers down their throats.

But in most cases, it’s usually the reason of gross behavior – may be craving for attention or just feeling like doing it.

However, most parents, especially mothers are not comfortable with the sight of their babies sticking fingers down their throats.

This could even leave some parents in a panic state, putting them on edge.

And we understand how disturbing it seems.

So, we’re hoping that this guide will help parents understand why toddlers usually stick fingers down their throats.

Is It Normal For My Toddler To Stick His Fingers Down His Throat?

Naturally, it is normal for infants to stick their fingers down their throats.

It could be as a result of eating something they dislike or feeling some kind of discomfort.

Babies growing into adulthood do this a lot because at that point, life seems to be an adventure for them and they’re still trying to understand certain aspects of themselves and their environment.

Unarguably, it is one of the common attitudes that could be classified under some of the annoying behaviors exhibited during infancy.

Babies sticking fingers down their throats is normal and there should be no cause for alarm.

But as an adult, you should understand that such behaviors might not be healthy as they have implications.

Babies are too young to understand that.

They do not know what they do and only get to find out if it’s right or wrong by watching how you react.

Most toddlers crave the opportunity to explore, communicate their feelings better and try out something new.

So, once they realize that sticking their fingers into their throat causes the parent or caregiver to raise an alarm, their interests get stimulated and they tend to do it often.

They are determined to explore any finding in its full form even if it’s fairly unpleasant for them.

What Causes Toddlers To Stick Their Fingers Down Their Throats?

Sometimes, the act of a baby sticking his fingers into his throat happens during mealtime.

Urging your baby to eat more than he should and in some cases eating what he doesn’t like could cause the gag reflex.

This reflex action could be either a technique to gain attention or just a reaction to show rejection of whatever it is he’s not comfortable with.

In some rare cases, it can be related to silent reflux, chronic nausea, food allergy, or other digestive and stomach disorders.

In trying out this reflex action, a baby can pick an interest in continuing the act because it makes him feel relieved.

Such discovery connects easily and if not handled properly grows into a habit.

It is normal and appropriate to feel worried and concerned about the gag reflex because if care is not taken, it can lead to a more serious issue.

Once your baby discovers that gagging attracts attention, they often use it.

Over time, it can become a bad habit that is difficult to break and so it is necessary to apply all measures possible to prevent this act from evolving into a habit.

Another reason infants could stick their fingers down their throat is when they have something stuck in their throat.

Perhaps they’ve just swallowed one of the objects around them like their toy and it got stuck in their throat.

That’s when you see them sticking their fingers in their throat, struggling to help themselves, and making some choking sounds.

Babies are fond of putting everything within their reach into their mouths.

This explains why parents must always have a close watch on babies, especially when they start crawling – then they could easily access threatening situations by themselves and you might not be at alert to stop them.

Unfortunately, there is no direct way to stop a child from gagging or displaying any other unlikely behavior, but the good thing is that there is always at least one solution to a common problem.

Are There Preventive Measures To Take In Trying To Stop Such Behavior?

Definitely. It is true that the act of a baby sticking his fingers into his mouth is purely behavioral and raising an alarm at a time as such might not be necessary.

I would not call it preventive measures per se because some infants are so smart and inquisitive that they don’t rest until they’ve done what they feel like doing.

At this point, the reasonable way to stop that might not be to display dramatic and loud behavior.

The results could come out better with a calm and tender attitude towards them.

To further stop this, you can restrain your baby from carrying out such behavior by learning how not to overfeed, knowing the type of food he or she dislikes, keeping his/her hands busy with children’s play toys, and other things that are safe to put in the mouth.

On the other hand, you should try not to respond to the coughing with so much panic as instead of making the baby stop could ignite the sensation more in the baby, causing him to do more.

Some parents are prone to easily raising a hand to spank the baby on the bum but this might not serve as the best disciplinary action because some toddlers will cry, and then still repeat the same thing.

Not because they’re stubborn but because some of them don’t even understand why you spanked them in the first place.

That’s why spanking can’t be the best approach to situations like this.

Another way of going about this is by maintaining control of their hand movements.

Note, this doesn’t mean you should be overbearing about it, but instead, try playing with their hands when you notice that they are about to be taken to the mouth, or try to make them clap.

The aim is to keep their hands busy and off their mouths as gently as possible.

Remember, how you handle this behavior put up by your infant can make or mar your success story in helping them overcome this habit.

If you try to force it, you will end up causing harm to the baby, and this can result in the baby vomiting or crying, and the consequential stress on your baby is something you wouldn’t love to happen.

With regards to buying toys for your baby, don’t buy them toys that their mouth can contain – most babies try to swallow their toy, leading to one of those choking moments and them sticking their fingers down their throat.

Not just about toys, also ensure that every little object around your baby is kept out of reach because once they get a hold of anything that can fit into their mouth, the rest is history.


We can’t exactly stop infants from doing what they want.

But we can always help control the situation, leveraging on our superior understanding as adults.

As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to always keep a close watch on any baby in your care because things happen quickly with babies.

In the case of toddlers sticking fingers down their throat, it’s clear it happens for various reasons which include harmless and dangerous ones.

That said, if you observe an infant exhibiting such behavior, it’s important to ascertain the actual reason it’s happening to see if it’s something that needs a medical practitioner.

Christine Heather
Christine Heather
Christine Heather is a veteran mom, skilled in parenting, and blessed with three cute lovelies and a supportive husband. With expert experience in child psychology, Christine has successfully navigated the labyrinth of children's behavioral patterns.

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