Ask An Expert: 3 Ways to Stop Baby from Stuffing her Cheeks

By Melanie Potock

Got a little chipmunk at home? Why is that some babies stuff those cheeks & then have trouble swallowing what they’ve pocketed in the gumlines? Are they even aware of that food stuck in those adorable cheeks?

Some babies need a little wake up brushing, helping to alert the inside of the mouth to say it’s time to pay attention!  Once seated in her highchair, hand baby a double-side toothbrush & show her how to brush inside her mouth, especially in those sweet cheeks.  Now, it’s time for utensils…

When using a baby-safe fork, like these from grabease, show baby how to place small bits of food that have been pierced on the fork directly to the sides or lateral gumlines.  Babies as young as 5 to 9 months will reflexively bite down on anything pressing on the gums beside the cheek.  It won’t happen every time, because the reflex is beginning to integrate & by one year it’s faded away completely. But it will happen enough that baby learns to bite a small piece and swallow.  Kids tend to stuff when the pieces are too big, too frequent & presented way too fast.

Slow the pace by handing baby a pre-loaded & child-safe fork each time.  Watch for baby to swallow before handing her another forkful to place in her own mouth.  If you’re doing a hybrid approach to baby-self feeding or baby-led weaning, it’s fine to offer the fork to baby’s mouth.  Just wait to do so until you see that baby has swallowed most of the previous piece.  Remember, keep the pieces small (about the size shown in the picture) & squishable for easy chewing.

Bonus tip: Dips help too! The more moist the food, the less likely baby will stuff those sweet cheeks.


Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLPis an international speaker on the topic of feeding babies, toddlers and school age kids. She is the co-author of the award-winning Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating (2015) and Baby Self-Feeding: Solutions for Introducing Purees and Solids to Create Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits (2016). The tips in her cookbook for parents & kids, Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes (2018) are based on the latest research and Melanie’s 20 years of success as a pediatric feeding therapist. Melanie’s children’s book You are Not an Otter takes preschoolers on a food adventure, exploring all the ways that various animals eat! Melanie’s advice has been shared in a variety of television and print media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Parents Magazine.  Contact her at for more articles, professional tips, and helpful videos to raise your adventurous eater and follow Mel on Instagram and Facebook too!