What to do if a Baby is Choking

Choking occurs when the airway is blocked, either partially or completely. Babies explore with their mouth, and they do not always chew and swallow in the right order. Premature or c/section babies may be at more risk, as are those with conditions like developmental delay.

Reducing The Risk

? Never leave baby alone to feed; young babies may not be able to turn away from a bottle if they begin to choke.

? Never allow baby to crawl/walk around eating in case they fall with food in their mouth.

? Make sure finger food is suitable. Things that are soft and easily mashed are fine but avoid nuts, hard fruits, peanut butter, soft bread (toast is better if it is cut up small), cheese, candy, popcorn, crisps, marshmallows

? Don?t wean too soon as baby’s swallow mechanism may not be ready for solids. Ask your health visitor about other ways to satisfy a hungry baby.

? As a rule, anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube is a choking hazard.

? Evaluate baby’s toys; discard anything broken or with small pieces.

? When baby is able to pick things up, make sure there is nothing dangerous within reach.

? Check clothing, make sure ties and drawstrings are safe, and remove them if you aren’t sure. Be careful about hoods, especially when baby is sleeping in case the hood gets caught round his neck.

? For all children, make sure the house is safe from dangers such as blind pull cords. Cut these or wrap them up and secure them around the curtain pole.

? Prevention is better than cure, so take every precaution but for extra peace of mind, consider doing a baby first aid course.

Signs That Baby Is Choking

If the airways are blocked completely, baby will not be able to cry; therefore you need to be aware of other signs of distress. Baby will be unable to cough or breathe, and skin will turn red and then blue unless the situation is resolved fast. If the airways are only partially blocked, baby may make soft high pitched noises as he tries to inhale, and a weak cough is another sign that he has difficulty breathing. Toddlers will show a panicky expression and grab at their throat. Loss of consciousness will follow and brain damage can begin after only 4 minutes, so speed is of the essence.

How To Deal With Choking

? Look in baby’s mouth and if you see an obvious blockage which you are SURE you can remove safely then do so.

? Lie baby along your arm or leg, facing the floor, head down low, always supporting the head.

? Using the heel of your hand, give a firm slap between baby’s shoulder blades.

? Check baby’s mouth again.

? Repeat the slaps up to 5 times.

? If after 5 slaps, the blockage hasn?t cleared, you will need to do chest thrusts.

Chest Thrusts (for babies under 1 year old):

? Turn baby face up in same position as for slaps, supporting back and head.

? Locate breastbone, measuring one finger breadth below nipple line. Using 2 fingers press firmly inwards and upwards against breastbone towards baby’s head.

? Stop after each thrust and check if the blockage is still there.

? Repeat for 5 thrusts.

After the situation is resolved, have baby checked out by a doctor.

When To Call For Help

If you are alone with baby, you need to get help. If there is another person in the house, they can ring 999 or 112, while you continue with slaps and thrusts.

If baby is coughing strongly, and the cough is not clearing the blockage.

If baby becomes unresponsive, floppy or unconscious.

If baby is high risk e.g. heart problems.

If you think the throat may be closed, this could be caused by anaphylactic shock.

What Not To Do


? Turn baby upside down.

? Shake baby

? Give water or food

? Put fingers in baby’s mouth unless you can easily reach and remove the obstruction.

? Never do chest thrusts if baby is able to breathe, or cry and cough strongly.