Gagging vs Choking
“I want to do baby led weaning, but I’m scared to death of choking.”
“How can I make sure my baby doesn’t choke?”
“I gave my baby a piece of ____ yesterday, and he choked! It totally freaked me out, and I don’t want to do BLW anymore.”
Gagging is normal. We all gag. Babies do it more frequently because (a) they’ve never eaten foods before and (b) their gag reflex is much closer to the front of the mouth than ours is.
Gagging is when a food gets too far back in the baby’s mouth, he or she freaks out a little and his body tries to get rid of that food. The food is not all the way into the throat or anything. It’s just a little further into their mouth, and they have to get used to that sensation and overcome it. It’s a slow process for some!
Gagging makes sound. The baby tries to cough the food up OR you can just hear the gagging sound.
If you believe your baby is gagging, it’s important that you don’t intervene. Gagging is normal, and your baby can handle it. If you try to intervene, it’s possible it could make the situation worse!
Choking is also normal, but it isn’t nearly as common. Some parents may never experience it. Choking is when a food goes past that gag reflex and gets lodged in the throat. If the food is the “perfect” size, it can get lodged and is hard to retrieve. That means, even if you do the right things, that food might stay stuck (those are the reasons we have choking hazards).
Even though a person (and baby) can choke on anything, choking hazards are those things that are more likely to cause choking and are very difficult to retrieve. Those are things like whole grapes, whole nuts, popcorn, and hot dogs.
Choking doesn’t make a sound. The airway is blocked, so even though the baby may try to cough up the food, it doesn’t usually work.
If you realize your baby is choking, it’s important to intervene.
What To Do
I recommend you do an internet search for “how to help a choking baby” and you’ll find a great video or two that will give you some insight. It’s also recommended that you take an infant CPR course!
There are a few things you can do:
(1) If you can see the food in your baby’s mouth, you can carefully reach your finger in and behind the food and scoop it out.
(2) If you can’t see the food, you should turn your baby over, making sure your baby’s head is lower than the rest of his body, and smack his back a few times. That usually does the trick.
It’s VERY important that you don’t try those things if your baby is gagging! If you reach your finger in, it can push the food further back. And if you smack his back, it can wiggle the food so it scoots further back.
Either way, those two basic methods are for choking instances only.
Ease Your Mind
Your anxiety is normal. I am pretty sure that most moms have experienced this. Going through the weaning process can be unsettling and nerve racking at first! But we have all been there. You learn to trust your baby. He knows his body and has those involuntary reflexes for a reason.
Try not to freak out. Try to watch your baby’s face. If you hear something, that is almost 100% gagging, and your baby will figure it out. If you don’t hear anything, be prepared to intervene.
Some babies vomit after a choking (or even gagging) incident, but follow your baby’s lead. If your baby is visibly upset after the episode, just comfort her and don’t worry about solids anymore that meal. If your baby vomits then goes straight back to her normal self, try to push the situation out of your mind and let her continue to eat.
Remember: choking can happen no matter the age. If you start BLW at 6 months (that’s strict BLW), choking can happen at 6 months. If you start finger foods later, choking can still happen! In other words, a 6 month old can choke, and a 16 month old can choke. Just be prepared, mamas (and dads)!
I’m not a doctor! I’m not any sort of medical professional. If you want a second opinion, find it. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it. You can find this information online with verification! I’ve just compiled it for you 🙂
Good luck and happy weaning!