It's a situation we hope we'll never be in, but knowing what to do when a baby is choking can be the difference between life or death. According to Medline Plus, choking in babies is usually caused by the baby placing something in their mouth and then accidentally swallowing or breathing it in.
A certified first aid course will give you comprehensive instructions on how to treat a baby who is choking and will allow you the opportunity to practice and receive feedback on your technique. You can book first aid course through the Red Cross. Until then, here are four critical things you should do if a baby is choking:
1) Assess the situation quickly.
According to Baby Center, symptoms of choking include the skin turning red or blue, and odd noises. If the baby is audibly crying, gagging or coughing, then its airway is only partially blocked and you should let it continue to cough. This is the best way to dislodge whatever is stuck in the throat. If the baby cannot make any sound at all, the throat is fully blocked. Call for help or ask someone else to call 911 while you begin the following steps. If you suspect the baby's throat is blocked by swelling - caused by an allergic reaction or illness - call 911 immediately.
2) Perform back blows.
Parents advise you to turn the baby face down over your forearm (as in the picture) or on your lap. The head should be lower than the chest - you need to let gravity help you. Hold the baby's jaw firmly with your hand to protect its head as you begin the back blows. With your free hand, give the baby five quick blows between the shoulder blades.
3) Perform chest thrusts.
Medline Plus advises that if the object isn't expelled after five back blows, you should turn the infant face-up and lay them along your thigh, or in your lap. Cradle their head with one hand to support it. Place two fingers on the middle of the breastbone, just below the nipples. Give five thrusts downwards, compressing the chest between 30% - 50%. Alternate between back blows and chest thrusts, five at a time, until you have dislodged the object or the infant has lost consciousness.
4) Perform CPR.
If the baby stops breathing, loses consciousness, or turns blue, call 911 if you haven't already. Look into the throat - if you can see the object, try using a finger to carefully pull it out. ONLY do this if you can see the object and if the baby is unconscious, as you run the risk of pushing the object further down or causing vomiting. If all else fails, perform baby CPR until help arrives.
The most important thing in any emergency situation is that you stay calm and take a few seconds to assess the situation. DO NOT perform the chest thrusts or back blows if the baby has stopped breathing because of swelling in the throat, but DO perform infant CPR after calling 911. Even if you successfully dislodge the object and your baby seems fine, see your doctor for a check up. Best of all - try to prevent this from happening. Keep little objects out of reach, and don't give your baby toys with small removable parts. Break food - such as grapes - into smaller pieces for your baby to enjoy without risk.