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Rumination Disorder


What is rumination disorder?

Rumination disorder is an eating disorder in which a baby 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. To be considered a disorder, this behavior must occur in children who had previously been eating normally, and it must happen regularly for at least 1 month.

How does it occur?

The exact cause of rumination 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 the child to gain attention.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • repeatedly bringing up and re-chewing of food
  • weight loss
  • bad breath and tooth decay
  • repeated stomachaches and indigestion
  • raw and chapped lips

Some infants may make unusual movements. These include straining and arching the back, holding the head back, tightening the abdominal muscles, and making sucking movements with the mouth.

Regurgitation begins within minutes of a meal and may last for several hours. It happens almost every day after most meals. Regurgitation seems effortless and rarely causes retching.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may do X-rays and blood tests to check for physical causes for the vomiting. The healthcare provider may also want to observe the infant during and after feeding.

How is it treated?

Treatment mainly focuses on changing the child's behavior. This may involve:

  • changing the child's posture during and right after eating
  • giving the child more attention
  • making feeding a more relaxing and pleasant experience
  • distracting the child when he or she begins the rumination behavior
  • placing something sour or bad-tasting on the child's tongue when he or she starts to vomit

How long will it last?

In most cases, babies with this disorder will outgrow the behavior and return to eating normally. For older children, this disorder can continue for months.


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Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2006-10-27
Last reviewed: 2010-06-14

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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