May 15, 2012


  It’s a very regular part of our life around here.

And as soon as I think that I’m over it and that it will stop bothering me, it gets to me again, grosses me out, makes me frustrated and irritated, and the smell….oh the smell.


Bella is a puker.


If she feels anxious about anything : Puke.

If she feels hungry: Puke.

If she has a meal in front of her that she doesn’t want to eat: Puke.

Doesn’t want to take her meds: Puke.


That’s a lot of vomit.  Usually all over my car.


At this point, I’m out of ideas.

What I can tell you, is that this is a control issue stemming mostly from the trauma she has endured in the past (read: yesterday, and every day previous.).

I know that most of this is subconscious, a reaction from the primitive brain, which with Bella, apparently goes something like: Flight, Fight, Freeze, or Puke!

But I also know that there are absolutely times when she wants to exhibit control, and in order to do that, she convinces herself that she NEEDS to puke, and what do you know, all of a sudden her lunch is on the table!

At home, she eats whatever she wants, whenever she wants and it is all junk food.  The only things I’ve heard her say are served at home are ramen noodles, cheetoes, pepsi, frosted flakes, and bologna. 



So, do any of you foster parents have pukers?  Please? 



I’ve tried every way I can figure to give her control over her foods while still maintaining a healthy diet for her (which is even more important due to her illness).  I always give her choices, making sure there are things that she likes, or has at least stomached before. 

But without fail, I give her a choice (thinking I’m helping with the control issue), she chooses what she wants, I put it in front of her, and she refuses to eat it.  I don’t think it’s healthy for either of us to let her change her mind four times before she’ll actually eat something.  But 99% of the time that I am firm on her eating something, she just pukes it up.


Rock?  Hard Place?  Anyone?


It’s so hard not to get frustrated.  Especially times when I know she has sat there and convinced herself that the next bite will make her puke.  I try to be compassionate, but seriously, we’ve puked three times today and can’t manage to get to a trash can or toilet. (this is a bad day.)


We have good days and bad days.  She’s had a yogurt voluntarily every day for the last three days, and this morning at breakfast it made her puke.  (More accurately: she made herself puke due to the yogurt.)



Ugh.  Tell me you have tips?


  1. We dealt with a vomiter and it was no fun - plus I didn't find a lot of people who had dealt with that before.

    What worked for us was to stop the control battle. I finally started telling him that he didn't have to eat if he didn't want to. That took care of most of the vomiting. If he didn't eat he didn't get any other food until the next meal - he didn't like the idea of no snacks or dessert and so he would eat willingly more often. Even when he was being defiant because he wanted to play or something instead of eating, I still told him he didn't have to eat if he didn't want to. In those situations, if he chose not to eat, I had him sit on the floor in the room with us so he couldn't go play but he didn't threaten our meal with vomit. When I would see him start to make himself vomit I'd remind him calmly that he didn't have to eat it if he didn't want to and that took care of it. After one or two times he really got the hang of it and then he started trying new things I offered him. I would ask him to take a bite and remind him that he didn't have to and most of the time he would try it (all the while I'm reminding him he didn't have to). When he would try even the tiniest bite of something I'd lather him with praise and, depending on the situation would offer him a treat afterward (not before as a bribe). In any case this really helped us.

    I hope you find resolution with this quickly - it really does suck. I was really happy when that placement went home because we didn't have to deal with vomit any more - his sister had extreme motion sickness and would vomit every time she went ANYWHERE in the car.

  2. First, I have to admit I've never had your situation (trauma/vomit/control combination)--our foster is only our first and still on formula. So, I really feel for you and just want to encourage you to hang in there. But I can tell you my experience with an extremely strong-willed toddler--I agree with not making a big deal whether she eats anything or not (WHETHER or not to eat is as much a control issue as WHAT to eat). As long as all the options in your home are reasonably healthy, once she gets hungry, something healthy is gonna go down the hatch. In our house, we say "you don't have to eat veggies if you don't want to--you are welcome to choose--but you can only have fruit (her "dessert") if you finish them." Somehow the "logical consequences" sink in, even at age 18 months.

  3. Wow - I've never had a puker. My anxiety ridden child runs fevers instead. That's a lot less messy.

    My only advice is to not make it a battle. I'm with you totally -- give her choices. However, it's not necessary to let her choose something else after she's made her original decision. Tell her she's welcome to eat what she chose...or not eat at all.

    Unless it's a problem with her health issues, that should (slowly I'm sure) help resolve the problem. No child will starve themselves. Eventually she'll eat from within the guidelines you're setting.

    How challenging it must be for her to deal with the radical differences between her biological environment and your home though. I'm sure the process of change won't come easily or quickly. The constant trauma is so hard to overcome.

    Hang in there!!

  4. Thanks so much for your comments and ideas!
    Unfortunately, the whole 'you don't have to eat' thing has serious cons too. Any time she's gone without dinner, she pukes the next morning without fail. The feeling of her belly being empty triggers her to puke too!! Aaaahhhh!

  5. How frustrating! You really are between a rock and a hard place! Is there anything healthy that she thinks of as "junk food"? Homemade cereal bar (maybe even with chocolate chips)? Granola with dried fruit bits? Smoothies? Shoot -- even popcorn would probably be better than least it's a whole grain.

  6. Our foster son is not this extreme, but we also have the empty stomach vomit issue, so we can't let him not eat. He also melts down completely if he is hungry so between that and the throw up we always need him to eat. My only suggestion is the what we call "one and one" where they take one bite of whatever they think is yummy and then one bite of the offending food. Kids who finish it all get treats. This has been super effective with our foster kids and also our bio kids. Also, for our 4 year old foster son, food choices are just too overwhelming for him, so he just gets what we pick for him and handles that better. We leave "choices" for non food things because food it too much of a trigger for him.

  7. I dealt with this years ago as a nanny, a little girl I watched vomitted constantly over the same things. The way the parents and I decided to handle it was to have a bowl next to her at all times,it was made clear that if she was going to do it it had to be in the bowl, we made a point not to feed into the drama part of it, I felt that there had to be something about it that kept it happening.
    I also made sure to have a consequence that would happen after an episode, so she knew that if she did it, she would miss out on something she looked forward to. We would also make a huge deal with praise when she wouldn't vomit, I would try hard to make it worth her while not to vomit, since I did not love cleaning it up!

    Anticipating what would bring it on also helped, since it is psychological I would try my best to get clued in when it was about to happen and try to create a really calm environment.

    I also spent time talking with her in good moments (with the bowl nearby incase it brought on an episode)we talked about new ways to handle stress/triggers, things that helped over time was teaching breathing exercises, getting her backed rubbed,or putting on music that was soothing to her, and asking her to pick a healthy but soothing food that she could eat to help settle her stomach like a banana, smoothie or bread product.

    I don't foster, but love your blog and my husband and I are currently discussing taking the foster classes this fall all inspired by your wonderful space here. Your family is always in our prayers, thank you for all that you do to help children.


  8. oh Maggie...I so do not envy this situation you are in! I don't know what to do about...I probably would throw up as well...I like the bowl idea least you won't have to clean up as big of a mess...I'll pray for you all (specifically with this situation!) love you guys!

  9. You are not alone! Our 3yo foster daughter is a puker! Not as much now as she was in her first weeks with us.


Thanks for commenting!!


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