By Jennifer House MSc, RD
Many parents are terrified of feeding their baby beyond pureeds: “Won’t my baby choke if I feed him ‘real’ food?”
Well proponents of Babyled Weaning (BLW) believe babies are actually at less risk of choking if they feed themselves, ratherthan being spoon-fed by a parent. This is because the baby is in full control. Another benefit of BLW and introducing table foods sooner, is the gag reflex is further forward in your baby’s mouth and it moves back as baby ages. So the gag reflex effectively keeps larger food pieces near the front of the mouth, only allowing very well chewed foods to the back to be swallowed.
However, BLW does have the potential to be riskier than pureeds, depending on the foods you offer. Choking occurs when the air tube is blocked. If your baby bites off a perfectly air-tube shaped piece of hard food, or you offer them this size of food, it is possible they will choke. In which case they cannot get in any oxygen, make any gagging or noises and will turn blue. It’s important to always watch your baby while they eat, and take an infant CPR class just in case.
Well it’s possible for your baby to choke on food (or toys/coins/may other objects), there is a lot you can do to prevent choking. Here are some tips:
Never put a piece of food into your baby’s mouth. If you put food into their mouth, it may immediately fall to the back, without baby having a chance to control it with their tongue and chew it. Let them feed themselves.
Don’t sit baby on your lap to eat. You can’t see them if they aren’t facing you! Use a proper high chair. I preferred not to buckle the high chair (unless there’s a risk of your baby falling or climbing out). That way you can get them out quickly, if needed.
Don’t offer food in choking-hazard size: avoid round items like raw hard pieces of vegetables and fruit. Instead, either grate them or slice them thinly. Whole grapes or cherries, whole nuts, berries, cherry tomatoes and wieners should also be sliced, so they are not a round shape.
Offer soft foods. Steam fruits and veggies and test the foods to make sure you can mash them with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. If the food is harder, make sure it’s in a safe shape.
Make sure baby is sitting upright, and not in a reclining position. And not running around with food, once they can walk.
Don’t have toys to play with or the TV on during meals, as a distracted baby is more likely to choke.
First Step Nutrition’s free video: “Top 3 Mistakes Parents Make When Using Babyled Weaning” http://www.solidstepstoblw.com/lp/
YouTube video on gagging vs choking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvoE2EhEQiM
For more about Babyled Weaning including a bonus video with a paramedic demonstrating infant CPR: Solid Steps to Babyled Weaning e-course.