UPDATE: Since I have gotten several negative comments on this p0st, let me reiterate that the experiences I’m retelling on this blog are not for babies who are REALLY choking. I am not saying do what I did if your kid is turning blue or not breathing. I am saying that if your little one is trying to gag up some food in their throat (i.e. you can see it in their mouth as their face turns red), there are some ways to help them cough it up BEFORE it goes too far down their throat or gets in their windpipe. I’m sorry if this is really distressing to the medically trained, but it worked dozens of times for us!
After four babies in a row, I have had four different experiences with children putting things in their mouths. One put everything, one put nothing, and two were somewhere in between. People generally think that kids under 3 can choke on anything (i.e. the warnings on most boxes). But really the top hazards are things that are small, round, and exactly the size of your baby’s windpipe. Especially between 6 and 18months.
Here are the top ten things that have made it on the list from around my house. (Some are esoteric, but just FYI ;-)
- hot dog pieces
- Kix or other round cereal puffs
- Skittles, M&Ms, or round candy pieces (not that you’re giving it to your baby but if someone else is enjoying them, they are likely to find them around somewhere)
- ball bearings (like in Magnetix or MagneBlocks)
- marbles (in several kids’ games)
- Rokenbok balls
- Lego heads, wheels, and tires
- stringing beads (or beads on little girls’ accessories)
Other than small round things, here are my other top chokers at mealtime until the kids can chew well:
- chicken nuggets
- chips or crispy things
- popcorn, rice cakes, or flaky things
- wheat thins or hard crackers
- peanut butter
- banana (have to keep it in small bits)
- apple pieces
- cut up steak, chicken or stringy things
Some of these hazards can be reduced by cutting into smaller pieces… grapes and blueberries can be cut in halves or fourths, and chicken and hot dogs can be cut smaller than they usually are.
But there is nothing MORE scary than seeing your child gag! Their eyes get red and their face gets red and your stomach ties in twenty knots that it will get worse. But I think it happens to even the safest parents at some time. Some slight gagging can resolve itself as the baby tries to regurgitate what’s stuck in their throat. But if after just a second it’s still visible in their mouth and they cannot cough it out, take immediate action.
DON’T PANIC!!!! (Yeah right!) The number one thing I found to work in a flash is, if the child is in a sitting position, to lean the child over slowly and slightly by the shoulders, about 20 or 30 degrees, so they are slightly bent over at the waist. For some reason this forces most things to be gagged back up if they are not totally stuck. About 90% of the time in my house, this happened in the high chair with real food, and it worked.
About 10% of the time, if they still couldn’t cough it up in about one or two seconds in that position, I went for their item itself. I opened their mouths (held their nose if necessary to get them to open) and grabbed the item myself. The last incident I remember being like this was with my 15 month old, who was eating a bread bagel in a Walmart shopping cart and had too big of a piece in there. This is a less than ideal option because of the risk of pushing something down the windpipe, but it saved our toddlers multiple times.
Just FYI, some items are not worth panicking over if the child swallows them. Most tiny plastic things like a Lego head or plastic bead can pass comfortably through the stool if absolutely necessary. Give them a drink when it’s over.
Obviously this is not medical advice. There are real professional choking procedures for babies that every mom should learn. But I honestly never did and was afraid to try it on my babies when they started gagging because I heard it was dangerous for children who were not truly choking (i.e. in their windpipe). What if they stopped breathing or turned blue while I was doing it? None of my children ever choked when they were younger than one, no-one ever turned blue or stopped breathing, and no-one was swallowing anything poisonous. So luckily the above techniques worked for me, especially the leaning thing, so I pass them on as old wives tales, not as a substitute for getting trained in baby CPR/choking.