Before you start it is helpful to know the difference between choking and gagging otherwise you might panic lots which won’t help you or your child develop a healthy relationship with meal times.
What is choking?
Choking is a difficulty breathing because of an obstruction in the throat. Generally with choking there will be no noise and eventually the person will turn blue and lose consciousness. Choking always needs an intervention.
What is gagging?
“An involuntary retching reflex that may be stimulated by something touching the posterior palate or throat region” (Mosby’s Dental Dictionary). Gagging is a normal part of weaning and babies need to be allowed to use their gag reflex to move the food which has got in the wrong place in their mouth. Adult intervention is not usually needed unless the baby is struggling. It can be a bit scary for baby (and you) so give them some reassurance that they are ok – smiles, saying ‘you’re ok’ and cuddles are all good. Try not to make a big deal out of it.
So here are some dos and don’ts around choking and weaning:
- Learn first aid. Either do a first aid course live online or in person or watch the St Johns Ambulance video here
- Don’t delay introducing solids because of fear. If your baby is ready (holding head up, picking things up and putting them in their mouths and able to swallow – usually around 6 months), they are ready.
- Never leave baby unattended whilst they have access to food.
- If baby gags on a food, try to distract them afterwards with positive attention rather than dwelling on the incident or linking it to that type of food.
- If baby gags on a food, don’t assume they have an allergy. Baby could gag on any food and there isn’t necessarily a link.
- If baby chokes, follow what you have learnt on the first aid course and call 999 if the first five back blows do not dislodge the obstruction.
If you feel unable to start your baby on solids or move them onto more textured foods because of your own fear of baby choking, don’t suffer alone, get help from your doctor, health visitor, a friend or get in touch with me. Talking things through can help and there are other things we can try together.