It’s exciting when your baby starts eating solid foods…but it can be pretty scary, too! After all, babies have small airways that can easily be obstructed and they’re very new to the art of chewing and swallowing food, which makes them more vulnerable to choking. (Not to mention all the non-food items babies love to put in their mouths!)

Fortunately, babies are built with a strong gag reflex that does a great job of keeping them safe. And parents can do so much to prevent choking, as well. Here are some basic practices that’ll help keep your baby safe. 

Be smart about food prep.

Cut foods the right way. Always cut round foods such as olives, berries, cherry tomatoes, and grapes into half-moon or triangle shapes, not rounds. For cylindrical foods, like hot dogs and string cheese, short and thin strips are safest. Overall, food pieces should be no larger than a half inch.

Serve soft, small foods. When your child is beginning with solids, make sure their food is soft and falls apart easily. That means, start with foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture.

Cook hard fruits and veggies. Foods like apples and carrots are great for Baby, just be sure to cook them so they can be easily mashed or pureed. Once your tot is about a year old, feel free to grate hard fruits and veggies.

Prepare meat properly. Remove fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before you cook it for your baby. Blend or cut small slices across the grain of the meat.

Establish safe eating habits.

Eat together. Eat at the same time as your little one so you can demonstrate (and narrate) safe eating strategies, like chewing and swallowing before talking and eating slowly.

Only dine at the table. If you only serve food at a table, you foster excellent table manners and—more importantly—you can minimize the risks of choking (like walking or running with food or eating while reclined). When your child is sitting at the table, they should be upright and alert.

Be aware of big kids. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), many choking incidents occur when an older kiddo gives a dangerous food (or a dangerous toy) to a younger child. That means, don't let your older kids feed the baby!

Skip these foods before age 4:

  • Whole hot dogs and sausages
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chunks of meat
  • Chunks of cheese and string cheese
  • Uncut olives, grapes, cherries, melon balls, cherry tomatoes, and berries
  • Raisins
  • Popcorn, pretzels, and chips
  • Gobs or spoonfuls of nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter
  • Chunks of hard raw fruits and vegetables
  • Hard or sticky candy
  • Chewing gum
  • Gummies, including gummy vitamins
  • Marshmallows

Keep your home safe from choking hazards.

One way to babyproof for choking hazards is by doing daily sweeps to check floors and play areas for small objects that your baby could pick up and place in their mouths. Vacuuming, regular pick-ups, and habits like keeping loose change in a change jar far away from your baby can go a long way to keep them safe.

In addition, keep these high-risk choking hazards away from your precious tot:

  • Toys with small parts (always adhere to age guidelines)
  • Toys that can fit entirely in your child’s mouth, like marbles
  • Toys that are broken or loose
  • Latex balloons
  • Coins
  • Buttons
  • Small bows, barrettes, rubber bands
  • Pen or marker caps
  • Button-type batteries (like watch batteries)
  • Refrigerator magnets
  • Hard pet food

Learn to recognize choking.

According to the AAP, if your little one is having some difficulty breathing, but can speak, has a strong cry, or has a strong cough, don’t do anything! Your child’s cough is actually better than any back-smacks or abdominal thrusts you’d perform. If any of the following symptoms occur, do not hesitate to have someone call 911 while you aid your child:

  • Bluish skin color
  • Inability to cry or make much sound
  • Weak, ineffective cough
  • Soft or high-pitched sounds on the inhale
  • Difficulty breathing (ribs and chest pull inward)
  • Loss of consciousness

Know how to help.

If your baby is not coughing forcefully or doesn’t have a strong cry, lay your child face down, along your forearm, using your lap for support. Hold your infant’s chest in your hand and their jaw with your fingers. Point your baby’s head downward, lower than their body and give up to five quick, forceful blows between the shoulder blades.

If the object doesn’t come out after five strikes, turn your baby face-up, still using your lap for support. Support your baby’s head and place two fingers on the middle of your child’s breastbone just below the nipples. Give up to five quick thrusts down, compressing the chest one third to one half the depth of the chest.

Next, perform five back blows followed by five chest thrusts until the object is dislodged. If your child becomes unresponsive, stops breathing, or turns blue, perform CPR. Alternatively, if you can see the object blocking your child’s airway, try to remove it with your finger.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.