What to Do If Your Baby Is Choking

If you believe your baby is choking (on food, a small object or something else), follow these instructions from the American College of Emergency Physicians:

  • First, determine whether your baby can breathe, cry or cough.
     
  • If your baby is coughing strongly, this usually means the airway is blocked only slightly or not blocked at all. Coughing may dislodge the object successfully.
     
  • Only begin first aid for choking if your baby cannot breathe at all or can only produce a weak cough and seems to be losing color in the face.
If an infant (under age 1) is conscious and choking:
  • Call 9-1-1 or have someone else call in case emergency medical help will be needed.
     
  • Sit down and lay your forearm, with palm facing up, along your thigh. Then place your baby face down over your forearm with the infant’s head positioned a bit lower than his or her body. Use your hand to lightly hold the baby’s chin (to help support the head). 
     
  • Using the heel of your other hand, deliver up to 5 back blows, forcefully, between your baby’s shoulder blades.
     
  • Turn your baby face up, supporting the head with one hand. The  head should still be positioned lower than the body.
     
  • With 2 or 3 fingers, deliver up to 5 thrusts into your baby’s sternum (breastbone) area. Press the sternum down 1/2 to 1 inch with each thrust. Avoid the tip of the sternum.  
     
  • Repeat both back blows and chest thrusts until the object is expelled or the baby becomes unconscious.

If your choking baby becomes unconscious, call 9-1-1 and perform CPR if you know how. Losing consciousness requires immediate, emergency assistance. Knowledge of CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and other first aid is important and valuable for all parents and caregivers.

Don’t wait for an emergency to happen. Find a CPR / first aid class in your community and take it. 

Choking Prevention Tips

Accidental choking kills nearly 4,000 adults and children in the U.S. each year; 2/3rds of the children who die from choking are under age 4. These tips will help you prevent your baby or child from choking:

  • Supervise mealtimes. Do not offer—or allow siblings to offer—unsafe foods to a baby or toddler. These include hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat, grapes, hard candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter and uncooked vegetables.
     
  • Keep toys with small parts and other small household items (buttons, round disc batteries, coins, etc.) out of your baby’s or toddler’s reach.
     
  • Do not give your baby or toddler a balloon without strict supervision; pieces of balloons that pop (especially near or in a young child’s mouth) can quickly become a dangerous choking hazard.

See also ...

•  Helping a choking baby (includes illustrations)

•  Quick reference infant CPR guide 

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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