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08Nov 13

How to prevent your baby from choking

It’s one of new parents‘ worst fears and a very real hazard for babies – choking. As babies learn to chew and swallow food, it is common for them to explore their environment and put new foods or objects into their mouth. But young children have small airways, so it is not always easy for them to cough up or splutter out food or objects that become lodged in the throat.

Parents, don’t despair! There are certain things you can do to prevent your baby from choking, including knowing which food and toys are age-appropriate and what to do in the event that your child is choking.

Back blows can help a choking baby.

Back blows can help a choking baby.

High-risk foods

Motor skills are a very important part of swallowing correctly, but most babies do not develop sufficient motor skills to swallow until they are at least 4 months old. Do not introduce solid food to babies until they are able to swallow. Steer clear of high-risk choking foods such as hot dogs, chunks of meat or cheese, grapes, and raw vegetables and fruit unless they are cut up into small pieces. Babies cannot eat hard foods such as seeds, popcorn, and nuts. Peanut butter, marshmallows and chewing gum are also foods which present a high risk of infant choking.

Though food and small objects are usually the most common cause of choking, eating while distracted can also be a cause. Supervise meal times, and do not allow your baby to run or walk around while chewing. Remind them to chew or swallow food before talking. Do not allow your child to stuff large amounts of food in his or her mouth, or throw food in the air and catch it. Also, try to avoid your cheeky partner from doing either of these things in front of baby lest he or she set a poor example.

Health conditions can often lead to an increased risk of choking too. Children with swallowing disorders, neuromuscular disorders, developmental delays, and traumatic brain injury have a higher risk of choking than other children.

Small toys

Keep your toddler away from objects such as latex balloons, small balls and marbles, or other toys with small parts meant for older children. Make sure that you follow the age guidelines on the packaging when buying toys and regularly examine toys to ensure that they are safe for your baby to play with.

Keep hazardous items such as batteries and buttons out of reach as these are also a common culprit.

How to help a choking baby

If your baby is choking, do not sweep your finger blindly in their throat to try to remove the object because it could lodge it further down the airway. If your child is coughing, stay with the child and encourage them to continue to cough.

If your baby is silent and not coughing, have someone call for help. In the meantime, hold your baby facedown on one of your forearms or on your lap, depending on the size of the child. The baby’s head should be lower than their body to make the most of gravity. Firmly thump your baby on the middle of the back a few times using the heel of your hand. These back blows should dislodge the object.

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