What to Do When an Infant is Choking

Learn what to do when you think an infant may be choking - including signs of choking, steps to take, photos and video

I’ll start this off by saying that all ended well. Jack gave us a serious fright yesterday that hammered home how important it is that parents and caregivers know what to do when they think a child may be choking.

I’ll set the scene – My sister and nephew were visiting, and I was giving Jack his dinner. We were all in our kitchen, and Jack was loving the attention as usual. His dinner was mashed potatoes and some flaky salmon – a perfectly soft meal for an 8 month old. I spooned some mash into his mouth and after a few seconds, I noticed he hadn’t swallowed. He wasn’t moving at all, he was just staring at me. I wish I could say I stayed calm, but all rational thought went out the window. I shouted his name to startle him, and he just sat still and stared at me. I went into complete panic mode and started to shout for Colm to come quick. In the meantime, my sister jumped up and looked into his mouth and started hitting his back. He wasn’t choking, the little monkey was just holding the food in his mouth. By the time Colm got to us, about 10 seconds later, Jack was chewing his dinner oblivious and I was crying. I’ve no idea why Jack didn’t react when I shouted his name, or when I was shouting for his dad. Once I had calmed down, however, I realized how completely unprepared I was in the case of an actual emergency. We took an Infant First Aid class when Jack was three weeks old, so once he was in bed (with a well deserved glass of wine in hand), I took out my notes from the class and refreshed my memory.

Here is what to do when an infant is choking;

Signs of choking
  • Child looks startled, like a deer in headlights.
  • Child may be completely silent, and unable to make any sounds or cry.
  • Child may have a bluish skin color.
  • Child may have difficulty breathing – ribs and chest pull inward.
  • Loss of consciousness if blockage is not cleared
  • If child is making sounds, they could be weak, ineffective coughing and/or soft or high-pitched sounds while inhaling.
What to Do
  • Shout child’s name loudly to determine reaction. Determine if the child can cry or cough.
  • Look for object. If you see it, try to remove it. Do not do a blind finger sweep as you may actually push the obstruction further into the throat.
  • If you cannot remove the item, move onto the next step.
  • Place the baby face down over your bent knees, with the chest at your knee. Head should be lower than the hips. Give 5 strong back blows.Learn what to do when you think an infant may be choking - including signs of choking, steps to take, photos and video
  • If the object does not release, support the baby’s head and turn the baby over onto it’s back. Give 5 chest thrusts.Learn what to do when you think an infant may be choking - including signs of choking, steps to take, photos and video
  • Continue alternating back blows and chest thrusts until the object releases. If the child goes limp, have someone call 999. If you are alone, begin 5 cycles of CPR, call 999 and resume.

I also watched this video this morning – it’s cute but it’s also a great visual for what to do when a child is choking.

Check out these resources for further information;

For information on First Aid Classes;

I’m not the better of yesterday’s scare, even though it was actually just an 8 month old playing tricks. I’m glad that it forced me to brush up on my first aid knowledge, and I hope that this post is helpful for other parents and caregivers. I would recommend that everyone take a First Aid class, especially if you have children or spend a lot of time around kids. You might save someone’s life.


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