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A lot of new parents are understandably scared of their baby choking. Luckily the risk is usually a lot less than you might think, and you can easily keep it even lower.

Sit upright to eat

Babies are designed to learn how to eat and their mouths are shaped so that big lumps are pushed to the front and fall out (until they have learnt how to eat them). The system works very well, provided baby is sitting upright. Choose a chair that allows your baby to sit up straight and let nature do it’s job.

Watch out for straps

If your baby does start to gag they can almost always sort it out themselves, but they need to be able to lean forwards. Straps that hold their shoulders against the back of a highchair might not let them move enough to do that very easily, waist straps or a separate harness could be safer.

On that note, feeding a baby in a car seat is best avoided especially while driving. They are strapped in so they can’t lean forwards, are usually reclined backwards and you wouldn’t be able to respond quickly in an emergency.

The gag reflex

This is one of nature’s clever designs. Any lumps of food that move to the back of your baby’s mouth will make them gag, which moves the food forward where it can either be chewed or will fall out safely. All that coughing and spluttering can look like choking to a worried parent but it’s probably not as serious as it seems. Rest assured, if your baby can cough or cry they can breathe and are probably clearing the lump on their own. Keep a close eye on them, of course, but don’t panic.

Foods to avoid

There are a few foods that are a bigger choking risk and are best avoided for very small children. Hard foods like whole nuts, boiled sweets and lollypops are difficult to chew and jelly cubes (before being made into jelly) are firm enough to get stuck.

The other category of foods to be aware of are those that are the exact size and shape to block a small child’s airway, like grapes, frankfurters or cherry tomatoes. You can still use those foods but always cut them lengthways so that they don’t form a circle. Be especially careful with very young children, if the food has a skin (which makes it harder to chew) or on occasions like birthday parties where children might not be behaving as sensibly as they usually do.

Learn what to do

The best thing you can do if you are worried about choking is to take a first aid course aimed at parents. Really I think every parent should be prepared but it will also reassure you if you feel a bit nervous.

About Lorna Farrell



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