by Health Tip

If you believe your baby is choking, or notice any of the signs listed below that indicate baby might be choking, call 911 or send someone to call 911 immediately.

If you’re trained in the Heimlich maneuver and CPR for infants, you can perform these on baby to dislodge the object. If you’re not trained, follow the 911 operator’s instructions. These may include performing the Heimlich maneuver or CPR on baby by:

  • Sitting or kneeling
  • Placing baby face down on your forearm with your hand under baby’s head and jaw
  • Using the heel of your hand to give baby’s back five slaps between the shoulder blades

If the object stuck in baby’s throat does not dislodge, you may need to place baby on his or her back, supporting the head and neck in your hand and using two fingers at once to thrust five times on baby’s breastbone/chest. Then you will likely need to continue alternating between five back slaps and five chest thrusts until the item dislodges and baby can breathe.

Remember, if you’re not trained to use the Heimlich maneuver or CPR on your baby, follow the 911 operator’s instructions.

Identifying when baby is choking

Sneezing and occasional, mild coughs are as normal for baby as they are for you, but pay careful attention to persistent coughing or wheezing, gagging and difficulty swallowing because they could be signs that baby is choking. Baby could also be choking if you notice:

  • gasping or wheezing
  • inability to cry or make noises (or, if baby is old enough, inability to talk)
  • a bluish or purplish tint on baby’s face
  • baby grabbing at his/her throat 

Additionally, if baby isn’t breathing, becomes limp or loses consciousness, whether he/she is choking or not, call 911 or send someone to call 911 immediately.

What to do after a choking episode is over

If baby has had a choking episode, with or without the need for CPR, you should schedule an appointment with baby’s pediatrician as soon as possible. Baby may have sleep apnea, swollen tonsils or simply a raw and painful throat that requires further attention from your healthcare provider.

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Preventing baby from choking

You may notice baby occasionally choking or, more likely, spitting up milk or breastmilk during or just after feeding. That’s normally not something to worry about – but if baby is constantly gagging during or after feeding, something else could be causing an issue for baby. In that case, you should make an appointment with baby’s pediatrician right away.

Baby will want to put everything in his/her mouth – including toes, blankets, toys and more. Be sure to keep small objects out of baby’s reach, including:

  • Jewelry on yourself or baby’s visitors
  • Toys with buttons or other small parts that could come off
  • Blankets or clothing with beads or objects that could come off
  • Hair clips or bows for yourself, baby’s visitors and baby

Baby will need to sleep on his/her back without pillows or heavy blankets that he/she could suffocate in, but if you notice baby is persistently choking or coughing while on his/her back, make an appointment with baby’s pediatrician right away.