One huge concern for any parent or person who is charge of a child is choking. This is particularly true when it comes to eating and taking approaches such as Baby Led Weaning which encourages the use of larger pieces of food over purees.

There is a whole range of benefits to Baby Led Weaning. However, one major cause for concern is the safety of your child. So, how can you tell whether or not your child is choking? or if they are simply gagging on the food that they are trying to eat?

How to recognise choking

When your airway is blocked and you cannot breathe then this is known as choking. Not only can choking cause issues such as heart attacks or brain failure, it can also cause death too. The most common thing that children will choke on is food. However, they can also choke on toys and other items that they can fit into their mouth.

If a child is choking then they are likely to be completely silent. Their face may change colour and their eyes are likely to be wide and have the appearance of being scared. They may move their arms and legs around, but still remain silent throughout.

What do if your child is choking

If you think that your child is choking then they require immediate help. For those who are under the age of one you need to hold them face down with their head lower than their body. You need to give five firm whacks on the middle of their back with the heel of your hand. You then should turn them over and try this near the ribs. This should be repeated three times. It is also a good idea to ask someone else to call 999 whilst you are working on your child so that professional help can arrive.

You should never, ever place your fingers in the mouth of your child as this can push it down further and cause an even greater issue.

How to recognise gagging

It is easy to confuse gagging with choking, especially if you are a new parent. Gagging is totally normal and is a common occurrence when your child first starts to eat solid foods. Whilst it may sound like choking, the thing to remember about gagging is that it is actually designed to stop your child from choking.

Gagging is usually caused when your child has too much food in their mouth and if the food starts to go too far back before it is chewed, then it will activate their gag reflex, which will help them to remove it.

A way to tell the difference between gagging and choking is that your child is likely to be noisy when they are gagging on food, they will make plenty of noise and they are likely to look uncomfortable rather than scared.

If you child is gagging then you need to try to leave them to try and remove the food themselves. The last thing that you should do is try to remove the food as this could cause them to choke. Be there with them and encourage them to chew, they will get there in the end. Once the food is removed you can then comfort them (it isn’t always a pleasant experience for them) and offer them a small drink to help wash everything out.

It is important that you can tell the difference between choking and gagging, as well as keep informed with what you can do to help your child and make sure that they stay safe.

Written by Renata Papcunova, Director.