Baby Choking and Gagging
In my endless research quest, I have found a lot of conflicting information about baby choking and gag reflexes and understanding the difference. Much confusion surrounding puréed foods versus finger foods ensued. I have come across many an outdated article and to be honest, when I first started Isobel onto solid food at about 5.5 months I was scared to death of “choking” on finger foods. I bought all sorts of mad contraptions, you can see Izzy in the picture here.
This is a plastic dummy type thing that you would put food in and the baby can suck the food through. It was about £10 and was useless as Izzy wasn’t experimenting with the food textures so not learning the “baby led weaning” way. Many of the contraptions marketed to parents are often done so with fear in mind, in my opinion. Its only through personal experience that I found this out. £10 is a slap up lunch at a cafe for Isobel and I! The reason I am doing this blog is because of the lack of sensible information on the internet. Thanks to Gill Rapley’s book and to seeing and doing I feel confident enough to try to give confidence to other parents.
After seeing Isobel gag on food at 6 months, sometimes she would be violently sick, it shook me and I had to come up with mantras, count to ten.. encourage her to cough it up. Saying that, I did slap her on the back a couple of times, but this is just a phase. The gag reflex is so far forward in a baby at 6 months, its the bodies natural defence, and the gag reflex gets further back the more experience baby has with food.
Taken from the literal translation of gag reflex
“The gag reflex (also known as a laryngeal spasm) is a reflex contraction of the back of the throat, evoked by touching the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue, the area around the tonsils and the back of the throat. It, along with other aero digestive reflexes such as reflexive pharyngeal swallowing, prevents something from entering the throat except as part of normal swallowing and helps prevent choking.” Taken from medical reference site
I do have a little experience and have had First Aid training since about 1998. I have been infant CPR trained and I am about to go on a “train the trainer” course so I can support other parents and show them what to do. Under no circumstances should you ever “sweep” the baby’s mouth, for risk of pushing the food further back. It’s the hardest thing to do but I had to let Izzy deal with it on her own. Gill Rapley says that as long as the baby is able to sit up, hold its head up and is never left unsupervised, the risks of Baby Led Weaning are no different to spoon-feeding purées. It doesn’t hurt to get trained.
My course is run by the British Red Cross and costs upwards of £45 or there abouts. If you are interested in this you can go to British Red Cross’ website for more details and check for a class near you.
Gagging is perfectly normal for babies at 6 months . Izzy would gag but it wasn’t my gorgeous baby choking.. It was perfectly normal for her to work on pushing the food from the back, to the front , and often this ends up with gagging.. Sometimes sick! But it’s just their body getting used to the new skills and challenge it’s being presented with. Gosh, it was like the exorcist some times in the beginning, I would be really upset about it but she just carried on!
What I have come to learn that choking is very, very rare, actual choking – Blocked airway and the need for intervention.
I have witnessed many, many debates about choking and gagging on Facebook groups. I found this excellent video. It’s always good to have a bit of training in infant CPR anyway, babies are more likely to choke on a small toy than food.
This nurse mentions at the very start, that gagging is a normal part of baby finding food and trying to push it back to the front of the mouth, which often results in the baby being sick. I know it did with Izzy, but it won’t happen forever as baby learns pretty quickly. She also advises on when to intervene and mentions the baby’s face going red as all normal gagging reflexes and to let the baby deal with it and just encourage it. As long as there is air getting in there. See for yourself but this is totally how I understand the difference between gagging and choking.
This video was uploaded on June 2014 so is the most recent I have found, beware of older videos as the advice changes, often from year to year, as medical research advances.
Choking is rare, actual choking, blocked airway. gagging is common at the start, and throwing up is common at the start of BLW
Obviously you have to do whatever is comfortable for you and this is just my experience, just be wary of articles you read online and check the dates they were uploaded as First Aid Training changes, sometimes year on year. Better to be safe than sorry in my opinion.