What To Do If Your Baby Chokes

What To Do If Your Baby Chokes

We are asked regularly what to do if their baby chokes as it is common for babies to choke on food, toys, small objects that they put into their mouth.

According to a survey by St John Ambulance, 40% of parents have witnessed their own baby choke, yet over 80% of these parents had no idea what to do in such a situation. This is an alarming statistic and highlights the need for parents to learn these skills.

The following is a comprehensive guide that should keep you and your baby safe.

A learning process Even though eating solids is natural and instinctive behaviour to us, it is – like walking – a process that babies must learn gradually. It can be helpful to remember that your baby is learning to regulate the amount of food they can chew and swallow at a time.


Choking occurs when food blocks the airway, rather than going down the oesophagus – it goes down the breathing tube, rather than the food one! Usually when we eat or drink and swallow – the epiglottis covers the top of the trachea (wind pipe) and stops food from entering it. Sometimes, particularly if talking, laughing or crying whilst eating, the flap of the epiglottis is unable to protect the trachea and enables food to enter.

The body’s reflex if this happens is to cough, to eject the food. However, if the airway becomes completely blocked the person is unable to cough and is silent. This is extremely serious and without help, they could die.

To prevent choking:
  • Cut food into very small pieces.
  • Puree or blend foods, especially at the beginning of the weaning process.
  • Discourage older children from sharing food with babies.
  • Supervise children and babies when eating together.
  • Preparation of foods
  • Cut small round foods (grapes, cherry tomatoes) into small pieces. Sticks or batons rather than circles is a good rule to follow.
  • Peel fruit, vegetables and sausages.
  • Remove pips or stones from fruit.
  • Remove bones from meat or fish.
  • Avoid hard foods such as raw carrot, apple, whole nuts and peanuts.
  • Ensure your baby is sitting up in their high chair and always supervise their meal times.

Choking – the signs

Babies have sensitive gag reflexes and often appear to struggle when trying new food textures and this can be frightening. The majority of the time they manage to clear the obstruction themselves, repositioning them with their head lower than their body can help.

Keep as calm as you can as babies quickly pick up on panic and this can make things worse. If they are able to cough, encourage them to do so. If they are quiet and struggling to breathe, help immediately.

Choking – how to help

  • Stay as calm as you can.
  • If they are able to cough, reposition them to see if they can clear it themselves.
  • Have a quick look in the baby’s mouth and carefully remove anything obvious. NEVER blindly sweep inside the baby’s mouth with your fingers as it can cause damage and push the obstruction further down.
  • Lay the baby downwards across your forearm, supporting under their chin.
  • With your hand hit the baby up to 5 times firmly between their shoulder blades
  • Check after each back blow to see if the obstruction has cleared
  • If still choking; lay the baby on its back across your knees, head downwards. Place two fingers in the centre of their chest at the nipple line, and give up to?five, firm upward chest thrusts.
  • If the baby is still choking, call 999/112 and continue giving baby?five back blows, alternated with five chest thrusts, until help arrives
  • If the baby becomes unconscious start CPR immediately.

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