How do I Help a Choking Baby?

Article Details
  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 April 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The competitive sport of "joggling" was invented in 1975; it involves running while juggling at least three balls.  more...

May 25 ,  1787 :  The Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia.  more...

Parents should expect to deal with at least one choking baby crisis during the time their children are young. Depending on the child, this number may be vastly underestimated. Some babies choke very easily, and others are prone to seeking out dangerous items to put into their mouths. To be ready to help a choking baby, you should take CPR classes that focus on infants. You'll need to know how to sweep the mouth to clear debris and the right way to perform first aid for choking on small children.

There are many reasons why babies choke, but for the most part, it has to do with their small bodies and lack of practice. Babies are most likely to choke when they are starting solids. Because the pureed food does not go down as easily as the milk or formula they are used to, it is easy for the food to get stuck in the back of their throats.

Chunkier solids, introduced as the child gets a little older, invite even more chances for choking. If a baby tries to swallow a piece of food that is too big, it is very likely that he will choke. As babies becomes more mobile, learning to crawl and then to walk, they begin putting everything that they come across into their mouths. This is how babies explore their environment, but it is also how a lot of choking incidents occur.


A choking baby is a scary thing, especially the first time that it happens. Luckily, most choking incidents are not life-threatening. The first thing to do is to not panic — keep cool, and assess the situation. If the baby can still cry, then he or she is still breathing. Check inside the mouth to see if you can see the object. If it is near the front of the mouth, sweep it out with your pinky finger. If it is further back, turn the child onto his stomach, allowing the food to fall forward and out of the mouth.

Babies may choke if they have a small piece of food on the back of the tongue. If you can see the food piece, and it is small enough, encouraging the child to drink something may help to wash it down the rest of the way. It is common for a child to get food stuck there and not know how to get it down his throat.

If the baby cannot breathe, have someone call 911 or another emergency number, and take action to get the object causing the choking out. If there is no one else there, go through one repetition of the maneuver, and then call for help if the child is still not breathing. A speakerphone comes in handy for this.

First, turn the baby over onto your arm, with his head in your palm and his feet towards your torso. Brace your arm on your thigh, or sit down if you prefer the extra support. Give the choking baby five solid blows on his back, between the shoulder blades. Turn the child over, and do five chest thrusts, using two fingers, where the two halves of the rib cage meet.

Check to see if the baby has started to breathe. If you can see the food item, sweep it out with your pinky. If the baby is still unable to breathe, repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until the child is breathing or unconscious. If the child loses consciousness, begin CPR while waiting for emergency crews to arrive.

To perform infant CPR, place the baby onto his back, tilt the head back, and open his mouth. Blow two breaths of air into the mouth with your lips sealed over his mouth and with the nose plugged. Check for a pulse. If the infant has a pulse, continue with the breaths every few seconds. If not, use two fingers to do five quick compressions on the baby’s chest, in the center of his rib cage, just below his nipples. Only compress the chest slightly, about 0.5 inch (a little over 1 centimeter), to avoid damaging the baby’s rib cage. Continue CPR until the baby is breathing or until emergency crews arrive.

The best way to avoid a baby choking is to make sure that your home is childproofed and that any food given to the baby is small enough for him to be able to chew it without choking. Attending an infant CPR class is a great idea for both parents and caregivers. Being prepared is the best way to prevent a choking incident from turning into a tragedy.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 6

it's not geeky to know how to save a life.

Post 4

@ellaesans - Before my husband became an officer, we already know how to save a choking baby. Our younger child, who is now 2 and still has issues sometimes, would ALWAYS choke on something - ALWAYS! Our oldest (also almost 5) never had that problem! My husband, however, just had these reflexes like a cat and would get to our chokers quickly. He has been known to throw things he is currently working on down on the floor - even the keyboard or food! I guess that is why he is well suited for the job he has. :)

Post 3

@lmorales - I have heard the same thing about how to help a choking baby... that you shouldn't put your fingers in their mouth to dislodge anything. I have actually done it - once - with my older child (she is now 5) and I ended up scratching the back of her throat with my nail. I felt horrible even though it solved the problem. Once I heard that I shouldn't do that, I never did it again.

Post 2

@Fiorite - I come from a family of doctors and have a CPR certified Police Officer for a husband and believe me when I say you should NEVER reach into your child's mouth to swipe a finger at the food lodged there. For one, you can cause your child to choke further; secondly, that piece of food may end up in their airway without hope of dislodging it.

However, your doctor is absolutely right that you should turn your child over in your arms and pat them on the back (with their face and mouth facing the floor). Be sure not to pat them too hard because it can worsen the situation.

Post 1

Indeed, a choking baby can be a very scary thing. I have encountered this many times because my daughter has been susceptible to choking since she was born. After talking to the pediatrician I was told that the best thing to do if I can't reach in and remove the item she is choking on is to hold her upside down and give her firm pats on the back. She is a toddler now, and she only chokes when she is eating too fast. I emphasize chewing food well, and try to remove all distractions while she eats. On those rare occasions when she does choke, the upside down trick works instantly. Just make sure not to don't want to drop your child while trying to save him/her from choking.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?