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What to Do When Your Baby is Choking

I almost didn't write on this topic -- of infant choking--, as it sheds some light on not-my-proudest parent moment. But I decided to hell with that, because what parent out there is perfect? None. And shedding some light on this could help out another parent big time.

Let me preface this with: Boo is fine. Happy as a clam and completely unaffected. She was not choking, but she could have choked, hence my freak out.

So, my little Boo is at the equally cute and terrifying stage of putting EVERYTHING in her mouth. Tonight at dinner we had a bit of a scare when she started gagging on what appeared to be a small piece of paper in her mouth. She was not choking, but it scared the pants off me.

What I did (at lightning speed) was finger swipe her mouth to see what was in it (shouldn't have done that, even though it ended up ok). I then yanked her out of her highchair, at which point she gagged again and spit the chewed up paper piece out of her mouth. She was gagging because something was in her mouth; she was not choking, thank the Lord. But it was completely COMPLETELY horrifying nonetheless.

It's moments like this as a parent where you get a metallic taste in your mouth, want to vomit, and hate yourself for not making the area safer for your little nugget. I was shaken and teary and seriously distraught over visions of what could have happened.

Luckily, as a former lifeguard/gym employee/babysitter/nanny/healthcare provider at a hospital/school SLP, I am thoroughly trained in first aide, choking and CPR/AED for infants through adults. I know what I should have done in the event of the badness getting bad as far as choking. I was still prompted to look up the current protocol on what to do if an infant is choking.

First of all, here are some common objects that babies choke on:
- grapes (cut those suckers in half or quarters)
- buttons
- coins
- balloons
- small toy parts
- hot dogs
- string cheese
- banana
- peanut butter
- pen/marker caps

Basically, especially once your kid is mobile, nothing is off limits. Anything on the floor or within reaching distance on counters or in couches are in danger of ending up in your child's mouth.


So, if your baby is alert and strongly coughing/crying, do not:
- intervene with choking protocol, as the coughing and/or crying can naturally clear whatever is trying to block the airway
- try to get the object out of her mouth as you can inadvertently push it deeper into the airway

If your baby's cries and coughing are not strong and you feel that she is not able to breath, you need to move forward with choking protocol.

This is for babies under the age of 1.

1. Lay the baby along your forearm face down, cradling the baby's chest in the palm of your hand and with your fingers around the baby's jaw. Angle baby's head downward and lower than the rest of her body, using your lap/thigh/leg for additional support if necessary.

2. Administer up to 5 quick and forceful blows between the baby's shoulder blades with the base of your free hand's palm.

Hopefully, the object in your baby's airway will come out with these first two steps. If the object is still in your baby's airway:

3. Turn the baby face up, still along your forearm, using your lap for additional support. Hold her head steady with your hand.

4. Place two fingers (pointer and middle) on the middle of her breastbone just below the nipples and give 5 quick chest compressions pushing down 1/3 to 1/2 the depth of the chest. (Yes, that seems like pretty deep compressions. YES that is what is recommended.)

5. Flip the baby back along your forearm face down and continue with 5 back blows (steps 1-2). Check to see if object has cleared.

6. Continue with 5 chest compressions/5 back blows until object clears or baby loses consciousness.

If baby loses consciousness:

1. Shout for help and for someone to call 911.
2. Immediately start performing infant CPR.
3. If no one is around to call 911 for you, perform 1 minute of infant CPR and then call 911.

Here is a cheat sheet for your quick reference. Pin it, share it, save it. Print it out for babysitters (although your babysitter SHOULD be first aid and CPR trained).

Click here to find a first aid/CPR/AED training class near you.


  1. Good stuff, I always recommend infant CPR to new moms. Sharing on my social media! :)


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