Watch Out! Treating a Choking Baby

chest compressions

Watch Out! Treating a Choking Baby

For both new and experienced parents, witnessing their young babies gag and gasp for air is undoubtedly a terrifying experience. And if not dealt with quickly, choking can become fatal and is indeed one of the leading causes of infant deaths all over the globe. In this article, we will take a look at what brings about choking in babies and how you should respond in such a situation.


Why Do Babies Choke?

There are several reasons why babies choke. For newborns, this is often due to the excess fluids and mucous that they have in their lungs. During pregnancy, babies’ lungs are filled with a special fluid that delivers nutrients. At childbirth, that fluid, along with excess mucous is squeezed out from their lungs during labor contractions. Medical staff also assists in draining out the fluids from babies’ lungs.

However in some cases, some fluid still remains in their lungs. This is particularly the case with babies born through fast delivery methods, such as C-section. C, or Caesarian section is a delivery procedure where the incisions are made on the mother’s abdomen in order to deliver the baby. As C-section bypasses normal delivery contractions, there is not enough pressure to squeeze our all the fluids from the baby’s chest. When he/she coughs, the fluid and mucous gets ejected from the lungs and ends up collected at the back of their throats. As the baby will instinctively try to swallow it back which can cause them to gag on it.

Another common instance of choking in babies is during feeding. In this case, it is often due to how fast the milk or baby formula is delivered to them. When it is given too fast, they can end up gagging in a similar manner as above.

And as they get older, babies become even more prone to choking. They have the tendency to put anything they get their hands on into their mouths. Small toys, gadget cables, etc. can then become unnoticeable choking hazards.

Dealing with Choking

When you see signs of choking in your baby, like when he/she is gasping for air and is acting distressed, the first important thing to do is stay calm and not panic. Assess the situation and try to dislodge what they are choking on from their airway. To do this, go through the following steps.

1. Lie your baby face down on your arm or thigh, with his/her head lower than the body. Be sure to support the head with your arm.

2. To dislodge the object choking their airway, use the heel of your hand to deliver up to five firm slaps to their back in between their shoulder blades.

3. Note that the slaps should not be delivered in one go. Instead, give one with the intent of dislodging, pausing afterward to check whether the object causing them to choke is now visible.

4. When you can clearly see the object, carefully remove it with your finger. Remember to do this only if it is within your reach, as blindly feeling for it might push it back.

In case their airway is still blocked after the five slaps, then you will have to give them five chest thrusts as follows

1. Put your baby face up on your arm or thigh with their head low and supported

2. Position your two fingers against their breastbone and a finger’s width down the nipple line. Firmly push inwards and upwards towards the head.

3. As is with the above procedure, do not give the five chest thrusts all at once. Instead. Stop and check if the choking object is now visible after each thrust.

4. Carefully remove the foreign object with your fingers in the same manner as above.

In case your baby is unconscious and is having difficulties in breathing, then follow the procedure below

1. Lie your baby on his back and placed your head on his forehead. Gently tip the head back, making sure that the head and neck are in line.

2. Using your other hand, lift the chin and check for normal breathing. Also, remove any obstruction in the mouth as in above.

3. If there is no breathing, you need to proceed with CPR.

To apply CPR to a baby

1. Open his airway as above. Press your lips onto his mouth and nose.

2. Steadily breathe air into his lungs, checking that his chest rises with your blow.

3. As his chest rises, stop blowing and let it fall back. Repeat five times.

Follow the above with 30 chest compressions

1. Put the baby in the same position as in the chest thrust. Also position your fingers in the same manner.

2. Press down sharply to around a third of the depth of the chest. Repeat 30 times at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.

3. After the compressions, follow up with two mouth-to-mouth breaths of air.

4. Repeat the compressions and mouth to mouths until help arrives, checking for any signs of breathing and movement.

Some Last Minute Reminders

In any case of choking, it would be best to have professional medical assistance right by your side. Make sure you have all the important contact numbers on hand and call immediately should you encounter this.

Also, prevention is still going to be the best way in dealing with choking incidents. Ensure that there are no small objects scattered around your baby’s crib or play area. And as a final reminder, always keep your eye on your young bundle of joy to be safe.