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Baby weaning and choking

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I have been running some fantastic online Family First Aid courses recently for private NCT groups, soon to be parents and new parents who have all wanted to gain the knowledge of basic first aid for looking after their babies and children at home.

We’ve covered a wide range of accidents and incidents, but the one I find people want to talk about the most is weaning and of course choking. This month I wanted to give you some little snippets of advice for starting weaning and a recap on the technique for helping a baby who is choking.

How do you know if a baby is choking?

This is an important question to ask as when babies are learning to eat they can often go very red in the face and make loud noises as they try to move the food around their mouth and into the correct place. This is called gagging.

Gagging is a reflex all our bodies have to stop us from choking and because our body knows we won’t be good at it from the very beginning of life, a baby has their gag reflex on the tip of their tongue. As they get better at eating and get older it moves further back in their mouth to where ours is as an adult. Clever body!

However, if a baby is eating/has something in their mouth and they go silent, can’t talk or make any noise, and start to go blue in the face they are choking and this is when we need to snap into action to help them.

An easy rhyme to help you remember this is:

*Loud and red, let them go ahead. Silent and blue, I need help from you.*   

So what do I do if I see my baby choking?

If you see your baby suddenly stop being able to talk, make noise, and turn blue in the face you need to follow these simple procedures to help them.

  • Look in their mouth and see if you can see the obstruction and whether it is easy to remove. It is really important NOT to stick your fingers in their mouth blindly to try and get it out as you may push it down further or break some of it off, making it harder to get out.
  • Sit on a chair and lean the baby over your legs, head facing down, holding their jaw securely so their neck is stable and give them up to five (5) short, sharp back slaps in between their shoulder blades. Between each back slap check if the item has come out (you don’t want to keep going if it is already out!)
  • If this hasn’t worked, turn them onto their front on your lap and give up to five (5) chest thrusts by using two fingers in the centre of their breast bone and pressing down short and sharp. Again, between each one check if the item has come out and if you think it has turn them on their front to help them get it out of their mouth (rather than putting your hand in and risking pushing it back down again).
  • If this doesn’t work call 999 and tell them your baby is choking.
  • While you wait for the ambulance keep trying the five (5) back slaps and five (5) chest thrusts alternately to try and get it out.
  • If the baby stops responding to you, you will need to start doing CPR on them.      

What things can I do to stop my baby choking?

There are a number of things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of your baby choking:

  • Only start weaning when your baby is ready. Try not to compete with friends – it really isn’t a race – and watch for the signs they are ready to try eating i.e. they can sit upright on their own and keep their head steady, they are interested in food and can move it towards them, they can swallow food.
  • Move at their pace when it comes to try types of food and consistencies. We’ve all learnt to eat at varying different speeds but for some it will have taken longer than others.
  • Get rid of any distractions around the food i.e. TV, tablets etc so they can concentrate on the skill they are trying to learn.
  • If you are giving hand held items – which is totally fine, research has shown there is no greater risk from choking when baby’s follow a baby led approach vs puree – make sure to give them things which are easy to hold. If you give carrot sticks for example, boil them a little so they are softer and make the sticks long and thin so they are longer than their hand grip.
  • Avoid giving cubes of food i.e. cubes of cheese etc as they are more likely to stuff these in their mouth and get them caught.
  • Make sure to cut anything round i.e. grapes, cherry tomatoes, into vertical strips this will mean they won’t get stuck in their throat if they eat them wrong.

The idea of a baby choking is really, really scary, but with this simple technique you should feel confident you have the skills to help them. When I started weaning my now toddler, I had two incidences happen where I had to help him.

The first, out in a local restaurant and he started choking on food he wasn’t used to. I pulled him out of the highchair straight away to be able to help him and that movement in itself dislodged it for him. The second time, we were at home and I gave him two sharp hits on the back and it came flying out. Both times he started crying straight away and it was the best sound I have ever heard!!

If you would like to get more information on first aid principles, learn some interesting first aid facts and maybe test yourself on your own first aid knowledge then sign up to my monthly email newsletter using this link below:

If you would like to organise a private family first aid course for you and family or friends, please pop me a message to discuss options and times. I am currently running these online but will be back running face to face in Sussex and the southeast next month.

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