The essential feature of rumination disorder is the repeated regurgitation and rechewing of food that develops in an infant or child after a period of normal functioning and lasts for at least 1 month. Partially digested food is brought up into the mouth without apparent nausea, retching, disgust, or associated gastrointestinal disorder. The food is then either ejected from the mouth or, more frequently, chewed and reswallowed.

Rumination disorder is most commonly observed in infants but may be seen in older individuals, particularly those who also have mental retardation. Infants with the disorder display a characteristic position of straining and arching the back with the head held back, make sucking movements with their tongues, and give the impression of gaining satisfaction from the activity.

Specific Symptoms of Rumination Disorder

  • The individual will repeatedly regurgitate and rechew food for a period of at least 1 month following a period of normal functioning.
  • The behavior is not due to an associated gastrointestinal or other general medical condition (e.g., esophageal reflux).
  • The behavior does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. If the symptoms occur exclusively during the course of mental retardation or a pervasive developmental disorder, they are sufficiently severe to warrant independent clinical attention.