Why does my child eat mud?
Pica – What is it and what can be done about it
Eating stuff that isn’t food.
The official name for this behavior is pica.
Every child does it to some degree so don’t assume that there’s something wrong with your child just because they like an occasional mud pie. Who doesn't, right?
Pica is most common in children 2-3 years.
Some things to think about (but usually aren’t the cause):
- Lack of nutrients (iron or zinc)
- Developmental problems (autism)
- Normality- Usually this is it!
Why we worry about it:
- Choking risk
- Lead poisoning - Paint (especially in old houses)
- Blocked intestine - Hair or cloth
- Tooth injury - Hard things (rocks)
- Grossness (That’s why parents worry about it, not me so much.)
- Poisoning - Remember 1-800-222-1222 for poison control
What you can do:
1. Tell your child what is OK to eat!
I must say 1,000 times per day to my 4 year old (yep, we all deal with the same problems, even pediatricians): “Food and drink are the only things that go in your mouth.”
2. Lock away dangerous items and things your child “craves.”
3. Offer your child a well-balanced diet
4. Don’t stress, but monitor as closely as you can especially in those areas where you know you child is likely to start “snacking.”
About the author
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.