New moms, here’s what to do when babies choke on food

Since babies are not familiar with how to eat properly, it is common for them to choke on food. However, it can be extremely dangerous. So, here are some ways to help your baby if its choking on food.
baby eating
Soft fruits and vegetables will reduce the itching in gums due to teething. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Harish N Published: 22 Apr 2023, 04:30 pm IST
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As a mother, one of the most frightening experiences is seeing a baby choke on their food. It can happen so quickly, and if not handled properly, it can turn life-threatening. That is why it is essential to know the basics of first aid so that you can protect your baby from the repercussions of choking on their food. This can be helped if the mother knows the basic steps of how to handle the situation.

To help new months prevent the consequences and help their baby if they are choking on their food, here’s what they can do.

What to do if your baby chokes on their food?

Since babies are too small to say or show how they are feeling, mothers should be able to know how they should help their baby. Here’s what mothers can do if they see their baby choking on their food:

baby choking on food
What to do if the baby chokes on food! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

1. Stay calm and act quickly

The first and most crucial step is to remain calm. Panicking will only make the situation worse. At first, allow the baby to cough up the object, causing the choking by itself. The next steps are to be taken only if the baby is unable to cough up the object.

Also Read: These 8 tips from a top psychologist will help you stay calm in stressful situations

2. Check the baby’s airway

If the baby is unable to cough or breathe, the mother needs to check the airway. Place the baby face down on the forearm and support their head with a hand. Then, using the heel of the other hand, give five quick, firm blows to the baby’s back between the shoulder blades.

3. Perform the Heimlich maneuver

If the baby is still choking after giving them back blows, the mother needs to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Place the baby face-up on a forearm and place two fingers just below the baby’s breastbone. Then, with the heel of the other hand, give five quick, upward thrusts to help the baby cough out the object.

4. Call for help

If the baby is still choking after performing the Heimlich maneuver, call for emergency medical assistance immediately. If someone else is present, ask them to call while continuing with the first aid steps.

5. Prevent choking in the future

The best way to prevent choking is to ensure that the baby eats safely. Cut food into small, bite-sized pieces, and avoid giving the baby hard, round, or sticky foods that can easily get stuck in their throat. Make sure the baby is sitting upright while eating and never leave them unattended.

Complications of choking

Choking is a serious issue and can lead to various complications if the mentioned steps are not followed or not treated promptly. Some of the complications that choking can cause include:

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1. Lack of oxygen

When an object blocks the airway, it can prevent the baby from breathing. This can quickly lead to a lack of oxygen in the body, which can cause brain damage, seizures, or even death.

2. Injuries to the throat

The forceful coughing or attempts to clear the airway can cause injuries to the throat and vocal cords.

baby choking on food
Know the complications if a baby chokes on food. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Infections

If the object gets lodged in the airway, it can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to infections like pneumonia.


Choking can be a traumatic experience, especially for babies. It can cause long-lasting emotional trauma and may even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some cases.

5. Aspiration pneumonia

If the object blocks the airway, food or liquid can enter the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Therefore, it is important to remember that even if the baby seems fine after a choking incident, it is still crucial to seek medical attention. Expert guidance can evaluate babies for any potential complications and ensure that they are healthy and safe.

Final word!

In conclusion, choking is a common and potentially life-threatening situation for babies. It is crucial for mothers to know the basics of first aid and how to respond quickly and calmly. Mothers need to remember to always stay vigilant when feeding the baby, and if an emergency arises, immediately call for help and take professional guidance.

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About the Author

Dr Harish N is  Neonatologist and Pediatrician, at Apollo Cradle and Children's Hospital, Koramangala, Bengaluru. He has completed his MBBS, and MD in Neonatology.
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