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Stop Your Baby From Choking

Disclaimer: the following post is not in any way intended to qualify as actual medical advice. For training on infant choking and CPR, please contact your local Red Cross chapter.

image of person removing item from choking victim's mouthThere isn’t much in the world that is scarier to a parent than a choking baby. Most Mommies would rather face an angry grizzly bear with a pocket knife than see their baby choke on something…it’s one of the “parent-fears” that can keep us up at night.

The not-comforting fact is that most babies will choke on something at least once while they’re little.

The comforting fact is that there are things you can do to “fix” it when it does.

What to do when a baby chokes: 2 Emergency Moves

If your baby can still cry:

Don’t panic.

When you notice your infant is choking on a piece of food or a small object, first make sure they are able to get air in and out, at least a little. If the baby is crying, then she can breathe.

Look inside their mouth and see if you can see the object in the back of the mouth. If you can, use your littlest finger to gently sweep it out. If you can’t see it, don’t try this…you could risk pushing it farther into the throat.

If you can’t get it out, turn your baby over onto her stomach and gently pat her back, allowing the object to fall out.

If your baby can’t breathe:

Again, don’t panic…you can help your baby much better if you aren’t panicking yourself.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a baby can’t breathe if she’s not crying. Put your ear right up to her nose and mouth and see if you can hear or feel air moving. If you can’t, you’ll need to do the Heimlich maneuver.

The Heimlich for infants is different than the one for adults. Here are the steps:

  1. If there is someone who can call 911 for you, have them do it. If not, start the Heimlich and then call 911 yourself.
  2. Lay your baby face-down along your forearm. Her face should be in your hand, and her legs should be on either side of your upper arm. Cradle her face so that her nose and mouth are positioned between your fingers.
  3. Sit or kneel so that you can lay your arm against your thigh for support.
  4. Using the flat of your hand, give five firm back-blows between the shoulder blades. You need to use a bit of force to dislodge the choking object from your baby’s throat.
  5. Immediately turn her over onto her back and place the tips of two fingers in the center of her chest just below the sternum (bottom of the ribs where the two halves of the ribcage meet). Keeping your fingers stiff, give five chest thrusts.
  6. Check her mouth and see if she’s breathing. If you can see the object, try to sweep it out with your finger. If she still can’t breathe, repeat the Heimlich.
  7. If there was no one to call 911 for you, call now, then continue.
  8. Keep repeating these moves until help arrives, your baby is breathing, or she passes out.
  9. If your baby loses consciousness, begin infant CPR.

Preventing Infant Choking:

Making sure food is safe:

Babies won’t be ready to try solid foods until they reach at least 4 or 5 months, and some even later. Begin with pureed fruits and vegetables and introduce new foods only as your baby is ready to handle them.

Even a baby who’s been chewing food for a while can still have trouble with some foods. Don’t give your child whole grapes. Cut things up into very small pieces. Be careful of hot dogs, the round shape is a perfect fit for a tiny throat…always cut them lengthwise as well as into slices. The same goes for carrots and other “round” foods.

Avoid tough foods like raw carrots, steak, and beef jerky.

You should also be careful of some soft foods that can get stuck in the throat. Peanut butter, cotton candy, and marshmallows are all difficult for little mouths to maneuver.

Beware other small objects:

Read labels on toys and make sure to follow the age guidelines. Don’t give your baby or toddler any toys that include small parts that can be swallowed. Check stuffed animals and dolls for button eyes and other small parts that might come off.

Batteries need to be secured behind a screwed-on cover.

Scour your home for any small loose objects within reach of your baby.

Neat Mommy Trick: Take a toilet paper roll…anything that can be dropped through the roll is small enough to fit in a baby’s mouth, so use this as a measuring guide for those “Is this safe?” moments!

About the Author
Hi, I’m Christine Allen from Livesnet, a site where you can find great reviews for baby gears and some useful parenting tips as well. So if you have any question about baby gears, just go for our site and do check out my hot reviews on Breville BJE510XL Juicer and Davinici Kalani Convertible Baby Crib.

Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want to prevent choking.

Image courtesy of Nick Sherman via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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    • December 31, 2012, 1:58 pm

      As a parent and CPR trainer I can never over emphasize the importance of knowing CPR and teaching others about it.