Choking risks for children
Key points/top tips
- Even young babies (before weaning) can choke whilst drinking milk from a bottle.
- Prop-feeding is tempting but if baby starts to choke they won’t be able to push bottle away.
- Always stay with your baby/child whilst they are eating and drinking from bottles.
- Don’t put anything in your babies bottle other than milk! Sometimes we see parents adding cereals to bottles in an attempt to help the child ‘sleep through’ the night. This is not safe.
- Children can choke on anything, but there are high-risk food.
- It's really good to know what the higher risk foods are and how to offer them safely (some still need avoiding all together).
- Ensure all caregivers are aware of high risk foods – reminders are useful.
- Know the difference between gagging and choking and don’t be alarmed by gagging. Try to remain calm if they do gag on food (it’s their safety mechanism) but if you panic it can make them frightened of eating. Stay calm.
- Talk to older children about the dangers of giving younger siblings food, lots of choking incidents are caused when an older child gives a food to a younger child.
- Choking can often happen when a child is distracted, moving around whilst eating, not paying attention, or if they are unexpectedly startled. I would always encourage eating at the table if you can. Make sure baby is seated in a well-supported high chair with a foot rest (no feeding in car seats or push chairs).
- Don’t be afraid to progress the texture of foods, staying on puree for too long can mean the child misses important sensory and oral motor stages and may have issues with eating when they get older and nutritional deficiencies can occur.
- We would recommend attending a baby first aid course before you start weaning.
Preparing high risk foods
- It is not to say that children can’t have high risk foods foods (many are very nutritious for your baby/child) but its important to adapt how you prepare them.
- Quarter lengthways grapes, cherry tomatoes and cherries.
- Crush giant blueberries or quarter them.
- Serve fingers of vegetables (instead of chunks) and cook them until easily mashed between fingers (e.g. carrots).
- Use chopped spinach (frozen is fine).
- Use no added sugar/salt smooth nut or seed butter and thinly spread on toast or mix into some porridge or yogurt.
- Use milled seeds (great for adding to porridge).
- Dried fruit is high in sugar and can get struck in teeth. If you are using it then soak dried fruit in hot water for 10 minutes and then mince/mash stir into porridge or yogurt.
- Smash peas and large beans.
- Cook, puree or grate apple.
- Grate hard cheese/stir into sauces/melt on toast or into a pasta.
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