The Gagging Thing v. The Choking Thing

Okay, here goes.
I have no idea why I am largely impervious to the sight of my beloved daughter gagging… perhaps I am just cruel? Other people, such as her Grandma or her Auntie Sharron to name but two, cross the room at the speed of light the minute Babybear starts the tiniest gagging incident and it’s all ‘ohmygodshe’sCHOKING!’ and slaps on the back.

And what does that achieve, ladies and gentlemen? One upset and confused baby, who was in the process of cleverly moving some food round to the front of her mouth with her tongue when some crazy adult swooped in and started battering her.

I do, however, understand why they react in this way – it’s not nice when you see someone you love struggle to do something (and if Grandma and Auntie S take a similar approach when she is buying her first flat then all will be well).

What I can tell you is that prior to starting the baby led weaning business I attended an Infant Resuscitation Class at my local maternity hospital. I should have gone while I was pregnant, apparently, but I didn’t, so there.

We got Grandma to baby sit while DH and I (and a couple of friends of ours, actually, which was pleasant cos we went for lunch afterwards) headed for the hospital. There was a heavily pregnant woman there who looked about as dazed as I would have been if I had gone at the correct time. She mostly stared at the plastic doll babies, then looked at her stomach, then back again, as if realising for the first time the enormity of what she had done. (Not to mention the enormity of the thing which would soon be emerging from her lady bits… anyway, I digress).

The class was excellent, can’t recommend it too highly. I was lucky that my husband (you know the one, Babybear’s father) was able to take the morning off so he could come with me because if it had fallen to me to explain how to resuscitate his child when I got home I would have wanted to smother him. Then resuscitate him, presumably.

Basically we all got to practise with the frighteningly realistic dolls, turning them upside down to pop obstructions out of their mouths and watching their little plasticky chests inflate. It really made me feel a great deal more confident about dealing with incidents, should they arise. Which I’m glad to say they haven’t.

Gagging, as opposed to choking, is actually a safety response to food travelling too far back into the mouth so when we see our babies gagging they are actually handling the problem and it’s best just to keep calm (or at least look calm) and wait until it passes. I give her a wee drink of water immediately afterwards which she seems to like.

I think that this is actually quite a good infant resuscitation clip, but it is no substitute for a real class with a real (fake) baby.


EDITED 20.2.14

This is now the most up-to-date infant resus advice. .

98 Responses to “The Gagging Thing v. The Choking Thing”

  1. Another Aitch! says:

    Hi there, I don’t know if I am posting this in the right place but here goes…
    My little fella, just gone 7 months, has had steak twice and LOVES it. He has two bottom teeth and has managed to tear off bits, but hasn’t gotten the concept of “mouth full” yet and I am terrified of him choking. He really loves steak and I hate to deny him it, and I was wondering if you might have advice on how well to cook it or what size pieces to give him.
    Thanks a million!

  2. […] was what their health visitor or children’s centre recommended, and were put off BLW because of concerns over gagging and choking. A couple of mums said it was easier and cleaner to spoon fed purees as with BLW there would just […]

  3. anither aitch says:

    Sorry….I’m not sure how to interpret the response! Should I resort to pureeing? Seems a pity when he enjoys a fist full of fillet so much! I thought there might be tips re. how much to give or how long to cook….

  4. Aitch says:

    oh i don’t think that was a response, sorry, that was an automatic pingback from another post!
    what do you mean ‘he hasn’t got the concept of mouth full’ yet? does he not spit things out ever? has he choked at all or is he swallowing? i wouldn’t resort to pureeing, no, i’d just cut the steak into relatively thin slices and let him chew at it. have you done a resus course or looked at them online at all? that’s a good plan, i think, just to help with your confidence in letting them go at it.

  5. Alysha says:

    We are having a similar problem atm with My LO he is 6 months tomorrow & we have started giving him finger foods he keeps biting off bits & gagging on them & being sick! we have tried Melon, carrot, cucumber, banana, brocoli, rusk, pasta & toast & the only thing he seems to be ok with is crackerbread. Is this normal with BLW to keep gagging & being sick? I spoke to my health visitor who loves BLW & she suggested baby porridge so i thought i would give it a go but he also gagged on that thismorning!!

    • Aitch says:

      some babies are sooooo much gaggier than others, it’s just your luck i’m afraid. think about it, though, the gag reflex does move over time, so it may just take a little longer with your baby. however, it is a total pain them being sick so why not just let him have a good go at the crackerbread (what is that, by the way?) for a few days, then try again. There is genuinely no rush, remember he’s not even 6 months yet.

  6. ricecakesrule says:

    I’m quite calm about gagging as well, I think maybe it’s because I’m confident that he can’t really “choke” on the bits of food I’m giving him, they will slide down or be spat out.

    My baby has definitely improved at this and we’ve only been doing it a month. He used to seem genuinely surprised that by putting food up to his mouth and opening his mouth, the food ended up in his mouth! He would just look at me and spit it back out! A few days ago he actually chewed and swallowed a whole piece of fusilli pasta. MIL nearly dive tackled him to get it out but we restrained her.

    We did have a scary moment the other day in Costa – I let him nibble on an oat/cranberry/yoghurt concoction. He loved it, but I think it was a bit crumbly. He went silent, red in the face and didn’t seem to know what to do at all. I plonked him over my knee and patted him on the back – cue projectile oatcake across the cafe! He was completely unperturbed though and happy to carry on munching. As aitch said, I find a sip of water afterwards helps to reassure him (and me) that all is in order.

    Also, re mouth full thing, I do sometimes get a finger in and hook out the mush. This is mainly with toast etc where too much munching makes a solid ball of mushed bread. I’m sure he’d get through it eventually if I left him to it.

    Sorry for epic post but hope some of it helps!

    • Aitch says:

      just to do a bit of an on the hooking… infant resus courses are pretty clear that this is not a good thing to do. better to put them over your lap and boink them on the back, just cos it doesn’t risk pushing something further back. just had to state that for the record, ma’am, as you were…. ;D

      • Jenrose says:

        hooking is a last resort, but sometimes necessary. When my special needs daughter has choked (multiple times), heimlich, back blows, tipping over my knee, none of that helped, but going in iwth my pinky, sliding it down the side, and hooking the obstruction up was what saved her life. Many times. I get bitten every time it happens, but she’s still here and breathing. It is easier to treat aspiration than anoxia. Once, a taco chip was making a valve over her windpipe, I’d heimlich her, beans would come out of her nose, and yet when she tried to take an in-breath, the chip flipped back down.

        She’s choked two or three times on pieces of corn chip, and MANY times on chunks of apple. I now never give young children sliced apple, just whole ones, because they can scrape off bits of the whole that are manageable, but frequently get chokeable chunks of sliced or otherwise cut apples. She’ll eat an apple gone from whole, but has choked so many times on sliced that I get angry when people give her slices when I’m not there. We’ve never had a problem with grapes with her, not once, but she tends to squash them herself before popping them in her mouth. More fun.

      • Aitch says:

        Squashing them is very sensible, of course, but if you can’t rely on your child to squash them or bite them in half first (my kids do that) then cutting up is the way to go. Agree totally about apple, as you can see here.

  7. flossie75 says:

    We’ve got past the gagging phase but we still get it occasionally – especially when he loves something and stuffs it in. But we did have it really bad at the beginning when he’d gag on almost anything, go bright red and then be sick. It did pass though as he learnt to move things around his mouth and chew!

    Also with steak, burgers etc (anything beef basically) he really loves it and tends to stuff loads in. Then he gags but absolutely refuses to spit it out. Has resulted in some ‘interesting’ moments in public when I haven’t dared to look around to see if anyone has noticed my LO – eyes watering, gagging, red in the face – but hanging onto that beef for all he’s worth! And he’s managed to chew & swallow everytime.

  8. Crystal says:

    I’m having similar issues with my daughter. We’ve been doing BLW for a week now (she’s 6.5 months), and she gags and vomits on everything (avocado, banana, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, hummus). Her gags are pretty silent until she vomits, she gets really red (not blue) and teary eyed. When I look in her mouth, it’s as if the piece of food just sits at the back of her throat and doesn’t really move forward until she vomits. Sometimes I even have to tip her forward (from upright) to get the pieces out after she has vomitted. She doesn’t seem bothered once the piece is removed, and would happily continue to gag and vomit if I’d let her, but I’ve started to end her feeding early to save my nerves. I don’t know if it’s a better idea to wait a couple weeks and try again later, or if that might just make matters worse if the gag reflex moves farther back and she hasn’t had the opportunity to practice her limits in the process. Any advice/encouragement is appreciated. My mother is very smug when suggesting purees, but I’m even more scared to put something in her mouth myself, knowing that she gags so easily on what she gets in there on her own!

    • Aitch says:

      I think that’s an excellent point about the purees, to be honest. If I couldn’t identify a single thing that she’s been able to consume without vomiting then I’d agree that maybe waiting a week and then trying again would be the thing to do. There really is no hurry, after all.

    • Jenrose says:

      My middle child gagged on purees all the time, but handled fork-mashed solids perfectly well.

  9. Angela says:

    We want to do BLW and have been giving our son (who will be 6 months old in less than a week) pieces of food to play with for a couple of weeks now. Mostly he would just look at them and then suck on them and none actually went in because he would push everything out with his tongue. Today was different though, I gave him a stick of steamed carrot and he actually bit off a chunk and moved it round his mouth, gagged and then spat it out! At least I think it was a gag, he coughed a little as he gagged, is this normal? I assumed it was just gagging and not choking?? He didn’t seem bothered by it at all.

    • Aitch says:

      it sounds like gagging to me, choking is a more silent affair altogether. it doesn’t bother them a whit, does it? funny wee things. sounds like he’s doing well, good luck with weaning, hope you enjoy it.

    • Jenrose says:

      When a child chokes, they are silent or make a very thin, high pitched noise. They look panicked, and turn colors/white, and if the obstruction is not promptly dealt with, turn blue and pass out. What you’re describing is not choking.

  10. Rhonda says:

    We have just started with BLW for our LO who is a week off of 6 months. I’ve got the book, read everything on all the websites and told everyone I could about it and was really excited and feeling quite confident. The first couple of days went really well I did things like big bits of apple, mango and cucumber – all things she could basically suck on and just get flavour out of. Now I am trying things like broccoli and sweet potato. The broccoli has gone okay, she seemed to love it but did make little gagging noises as she swallowed the little bits, but I’m not sure about the sweet potato…I steamed it so it was soft and then let it cool completely but she just shoved it in her mouth and didn’t seem to be able to move it around. She gagged quite a bit, did a big cough and got it up but I’ve lost my confidence. I’ve tried it twice (warm and cold) and she did it both times. It seems to break up into big chunks, I tried mashing it up a bit and putting it on a spoon but of course she doesn’t want that. So sorry for the epic post, but I am hoping you might give me some advice on how long to steam things for…should it be really really soft…? I don’t want to give up! Of course the whole situation is not being helped by the fact that I am starting this under the watchful eye of my mother-in-law who is…predictably…appalled!

    • Aitch says:

      i wouldn’t steam sweet potato, personally, too mushy i think, and not particularly appealing. we did chips in the oven, the recipe is on the sites somewhere, so the kids kind of sucked the soft potato out of a harder skin, if you know what i mean?
      nothing happened that should harm your confidence, though, surely? you now know that her body does exactly what it’s supposed to do when faced with food that her mouth isn’t handling, which is great. she’s not going to be able to get it right every time, she’s only learning, but you can see that when the food goes in the wrong way it doesn’t bother her, her gag reflex deals with it.

      and there’s no reason to give sweet potato if you don’t want to, of course. they’re useful for purees, being sweet and smushy, which is why so many so many kids’ recipes feature them, but with BLW you can give them visually interesting food like broccoli, which gives them something to get to grips with, and by the sounds of things she seemed to be doing fine with that.

      • Rhonda says:

        Thanks Aitch, actually after I wrote that I had a good look around your website (should have done that first) and found heaps of info to help and other ideas. Thanks for taking the time to provide this great resource for BLW first timers.

      • Aitch says:

        you are most welcome…

    • Jenrose says:

      We just bake sweet potatoes for everyone until they’re soft, then for babies we either mash with a fork or dice it up tiny.

  11. laurie says:

    Our doc suggested not feeding any solids until A can pinch with her index and thumb he said that was a signal that she had the reflexes to chew and swallow
    Has anyone else heard this?

    • Aitch says:

      so he means no solids until children have their pincer grip? no, i’ve never heard that before… and it’s palpably not the case to be honest as the pincer grip came well after my kids were self-feeding with ease. it sounds to me like an outside rule developed by people who are already puree feeding, thinking about it. because spoon-fed babies learn to swallow before they can chew, they have a slightly different journey to eating. BLW kids learn to chew and spit out before they get round to swallowing anything much. as the parent, you just choose what you are more comfortable with.

    • Rachel says:

      Yes. I have found several sources that advise waiting until baby has developed the pincer grasp instead of the whole hand palm grab. I don’t think this means you have to wait till baby can pick up a single pea with index finger and thumb and successfully navigate it to their mouth. Most of the time it seems to be that the author is advocating longer exclusive breastfeeding and introducing solids later than 6 months (at the least).

  12. Sarina says:

    Allowing some time for bub to learn to chew seems good…our baby is a week off 6 months & has been sucking on bread, cucumber, chicken bones, slices of mango for about 4 weeks. This past week she’s into organic rice puffs and gives them a big gummy chew (no teeth yet), only the odd gag here and there. Her Dad sits with her and makes very loud chewing actions & noise which seems to keep her on track !

  13. Angela says:

    Our baby has taken to BLW with much enthusiasm, he is now 6 and a half months. He loves eating fruit and has become quite good at sucking the flesh off soft fruit and leaving the skin. Today he was eating a pear and suddenly went all red in the face, managed to give a short cough and then gasped for a short breath and then went silent, and the managed another gasp. I grabbed him out of the chair and put him over my arm face down to give him a couple of whacks on the back but by that time he’d managed to clear it and I could hear him breathing again. Does this sound like a choke or a gag? I tend to think gag (albeit a bad one!) whereas my husband thought it was a choke. It looked to me like he had gagged/choked on a bit of skin from the pear – the pear was soft enough that he was sucking on it rather than biting off and chewing chunks. I was quite calm at the time but it freaked me out afterwards! What do you recommend doing next time, was I too hasty in grabbing him (I waited probably about 5 seconds, mentally assessing the situation), should I have waited a bit longer to see if he could clear it himself?? Also my husband and I were talking at the time (me sitting at the table and hubby walking around the kitchen), is it possible bub was a bit distracted listening to us and not concentrating on what he was doing?

  14. Kerry says:

    We tried BLW for the first time tonight as my baby has just turned 6 months and she likes to put everything in her mouth (has no teeth yet though) and shows interest when we eat and drink. It was very exciting watching her grasp a stick of broccoli and carrot in her hand, with her facial expression changing as she felt the texture in her mouth. She gagged as the first piece of carrot broke off and disappeared into her mouth and despite coughing and spluttering and then being sick it seemed like something was still stuck and she carried on like this as if a bit was still stuck. In the end we felt we couldn’t just sit and watch her struggling like that so my husband quickly had her on her front and patted her on the back and it came out and she was fine, albeit a bit grumpy and bemused, but I hope it doesn’t put her (or us) off sticking with this approach as I’m all for it. I guess I want to know how long do you wait when a child is gagging like that to intervene? And what would cause that situation to ever be choking and not gagging?

    • Aitch says:

      Main thing is, in my opinion, is that choking is a quiet, panicky thing, whereas gagging is a revolting working-out-using-the-very-back-of-the-tongue, so is a bit noisier and more stomach-churning. Sounds like she did brilliantly for a first time, and remember, they get better at eating with every meal, so the gagging really doesn’t usually last long.

  15. Jennifer says:

    I was hoping for some help or encouragement. I have been very excited about BLW- I first heard about it when I was pregnant, and decided to try it with our newest (third child). I am VERY lazy in wanting to start solids (so opposite from our first child!!) and wanted to wait til he was 8 or 9 months. Well my little boy has has other plans. He is 7.5 months old now- has been sitting up by himself for 1.5 months- has FIVE teeth (and USES them! yikes:-( ) and is absolutely desperate for food. We started just sitting him in the highchair next to us while we ate- then he was content with a spoon to bang with. For awhile around 6 months he just loved sucking/chewing on celery/apple/carrot sticks. But then he figured out how to use his teeth- and then the problems began. For about a month now we have been trying BLW, at a very leisurely pace- but he keeps choking/gagging and vomiting…. EVERY single thing he gets into his mouth! I have tried every type of texture I can think of- from noodles to hard toast to mushed avocado and banana to smooshy french fries to uncooked broccoli or celery to berries… and every time it is the same. He DEMANDS food (screams for it if we are eating and he can’t have any)- I will give him some- and he happily plays with it for awhile- then puts it to his mouth and uses those teeth to bite off a piece (or even sucks a piece of smashed banana from his finger)- and will immediately gag to the point of going bright red- go silent for a few seconds- then vomit excessively. I thought at first that he just had to get used to it- but it has been a MONTH of this – every day (some days I don’t even want to deal with it and put him in the other room while we are eating). My husband is almost at the point of ordering me to stop doing BLW because it scares him (my husband) so much. My son doesn’t seem bothered by the whole thing at all- and REALLY wants to eat. Are some babies just not cut out for this? I am at the point of giving up altogether and just pureeing everything.

    • Aitch says:

      What an absolute pain in the neck that sounds, I’m not surprised that your DH is about over it. Have you tried spoonfeeding him yet? (I would have by now, for sure). Does the gagging remain? Some babies, as you are learning, just have gag reflexes that are slow to shift. It might be that having left it a bit later his appetite is out-stripping his current ability (a lot of babies just faff about for the first month, getting used to putting things in and taking them out) but i’m wondering if his developing pincer grip might be your saviour? if he’s only putting one pea in his mouth at a time, might that save you from laundry hell?

  16. prairiegirl says:

    I just wanted to share a scary situation that happened a few days ago. We were giving our little guy (7 months) bites of broccoli, and he was eating them like a champ. Adorable and hilarious.

    Fast forward half an hour, and when hubby was changing his diaper, LO spit up some broccoli and immediately inhaled it and started choking. Like the scary, no noise, straining to take a breath, panicked look kind of choking. My husband is a nurse, and so immediately turned him over and smacked him on the back, and dislodged the broccoli.

    I just wanted to share this because it’s not enough to just watch your little one while they are eating, but keep an eye on them afterward for a bit as well to make sure they don’t choke on spit-up chunks. I don’t even want to think about how this would have turned out if we had put him to bed a bit earlier.

    • Aitch says:

      sounds awful, what a fright. do try not to stress yourself out too much about the sleeping, though, as from experience babies (people in general, indeed) tend to turn to the side to vomit in a prone position rather than stay on their backs, and presumably this option wasn’t so available to your baby if he was getting his diaper changed. i think that’s one of the reasons why so many ‘rock star’ deaths are in fact adults choking on their (presumably well-chewed) vomit, because they’re so out of it they don’t make that natural turn either. but yes, it sounds horrible for you both, very glad he’s okay.

      • prairiegirl says:

        Thanks Aitch, I just discovered your website, and I actually feel a lot better after reading some stories and comments on this website. I was feeling super guilty about starting to feed LO “table food” so early, and that’s why he choked, but it’s nice to know that there are others doing the same thing, with no bad consequences. We’re going to keep at it!

  17. Lauren says:

    Firstly just want to say thank you for the website, its brill and such a help.

    My lo is 8 months old and doing brilliantly with blw and I love the response from others when he demolishes ‘proper’ food!

    My only concern is that he loves all food so much sometimes gets a bit carried away and shoves as much in his mouth as possible before he’s finished eating what went in first! I’ve started putting less food in front of him until he needs more so he can take it all at once! But does anyone have any suggestions or am I just being too worried, it does mean he sometimes chokes (gags a lot bit doesn’t worry me anymore lol) but when I try to take the extra food off of him he gets so upset and I don’t want to discourage him as he absolutely loves his food but.I can’t let him eat 5 things at once! Is it.just table manners which will come later?

  18. Julia says:

    Just to add to what prairiegirl said, I also had a scare with my BLW 10 month old. I thought she was a really confident eater but one evening she choked on a piece of orange (skin off but small piece – they were clementine size – perhaps too small). Silent choking, panicky look. I immediately took her out the chair and hit her on the back over my knee several times. The piece did not dislodge but she was gasping (so breathing, if irregularly). We called the paramedics who took ages to come.

    The man on the other end of the emergency services phone told me that if she was breathing, even if slightly, not to slap her on the back any more as that could dislodge the orange and block her airway entirely. Thankfully, after a few minutes, her breathing returned to normal and she was fine once the paramedics arrived.

    She didn’t cry once, which is what really scared me. I’ve never been so desperate for my baby to cry. At the time I was cool as a cucumber but now I have flashbacks which are traumatic.

    I don’t intend to scare people as choking can happen any time but I do feel that I was maybe a little overconfident with the BLW and now show extra caution. I’m sad it’s turned out this way as we were enjoying introducing foods. Anyone else had a scare and found a way to get back on track?

    • Aitch says:

      it sounds awful, yes, and thank goodness she’s fine but do you think a 10-month-old can be said to be BLW? I always find this an interesting question, personally. For me, BLW takes about a month, maybe eight weeks or so, and then you’re back on the usual continuum of weaning. I mean, surely no 10-month-old child is still on exclusive purees, that’s pretty much against everything i’ve ever read. So these are (unfortunately) the things that can happen to anyone, adults included. thank goodness you knew what to do, though.

  19. bimbambaloney says:

    Julia, gosh how scary for you. I do take up Aitch’s point though. Even if I had puree weaned I would have been feeding my child finger foods at 10mths old. I bought a load of Annabel Karmel books before deciding on BLW and even AK suggest introducing fingers foods from 7 to 8 months, so really whatever way you weaned your child they could still have choked on that piece of clementine. I’m not expressing myself too well I think but what i am trying to say is these things happen, however hard we try to minimise them.

    You really cannot blame yourself, nothing you did was wrong, you did not make any bad decisions. How is your little one now? Is she cautious with food or is the caution coming from you only? I would try and jump right back in, offer what you had been offering (avoid clementines if you feel more comfortable with that). Good luck with it, do let us know how you get on.

    To get back on track,

  20. Blw?good v's bad says:

    Blw seems to be a great idea in theory, but sure babies need to learn with softer fruit veg 1st and not be given steak! I’ve looked after adults and kids who have choked to death on steak sausages and even jacket potatoe! so I would urge common sense here and go with soft/purée until babes show some signs that they can mush up the food themselves and actually swallow it, then introduce soft finger foods and not things like raw carrot which my then 3 year old still managed to have a serious choking episode on last year. Trust your instincts, the common thread here is that you as mothers are concerned your babies are not ready which is the reason why you are in this page. So back track and try something which feels right. Health visitors will tell you the latest ‘research’ which for all we know may say next week that baby leaf weaning leads to more deaths from choking, just like when they told us to let our babies sleep in bed with us – they realised it massively increased the risk of cot death. So if your baby is choking then maybe this isn’t right for them right now – but that’s not to say it won’t be in afew weeks, so you can retry it. I too thought it sounded a great idea but when I witnessed a friend trying it last week and 10mins after ‘eating’ he produced a 1.5cm piece of cheese I was put off thankfully she has realised he was doing this and hadn’t laid him down on his back or else it could have been different. In addition before you try baby lead weaning people should be taught how to deal with a choking infant/child, despite working in an a&e for 12 years a choking situation is one the most frightening situations to deal with and you won’t be in the comfort of a&e when it happens you will likely be home alone or in a public restaurant, it is a life saving skill to learn for your family and potentially someone else.

    • Aitch says:

      Hi Suzy, can I ask for a bit more detail about the adults and kids that you’ve looked after who choked to death on steak sausage and jacket potato? I mean, I presume that they were weaned on puree, for example, so it clearly has no protective element. (Obviously I agree totally about parents learning about infant resus, I don’t think we could bang on about it more on here, it’s an absolute must for every parent, regardless of how they wean.)

  21. lara says:

    Hi everyone. Have literally just started blw a teeny bit early but found it hard not too as my little bundle used to just grab whatever food was going into my mouth to put it to hers, i havent wanted to say ‘no’ or put her off the idea as they should lead you so i have now started giving her just one or two things to play with i.e carrot, pineapple etc! I have read the book and completely in love with this way of weaning and wasnt worrying about the choking side as all my friends were (non of them have done it). However today we went out for a meal and she had a slither of my cabbage, it was the right size etc for her to handle but a bit broke off and she went silent, bright red and teary eyed. I was so trying to keep calm but i just didnt know what i was goiong to do my heart felt like it stopped and it couldnt have been for more than a few seconds and she then kind of coughed a little and swallowed it. All of the posts on here say about them bringing the food back up which she has done with other bits of food but now im so worried. I wont let it put me off but really looking for some advice! Xx

  22. tracie p says:

    Looking for advice too! i’m in the states, so there really is NO one that i can turn to for advice. i’ve been documenting our start to BLW on my blog hoping to meet a community of other BLWers, but have had no such luck. Aitch, i have some questions that the book just doesn’t answer.
    for example, my daughter, georgia, seems to have trouble with things sticking to the roof of her mouth. she will try to work them down, then just forget about them. she loved tomato today, but the skin gave her a little trouble in this respect. i always take it out if she hasn’t succeeded by the end of a feeding (don’t want her to inhale it or something in her sleep). any advice on this? i’m also guilty of “rescuing” her from biting off bits that are too big.

    lara–my georgia has also had 3 official scary moments. it really throws me for the rest of the day, but i’m trying to trust her.

    thanks all!!

    • Aitch says:

      Well don’t look at me… i didn’t write the book. ;D
      As regards the bits of skin etc, some people whose babies have ‘hamster’ tendencies just do a little ‘sweep’ of the mouth after food, so i reckon you’re doing the right thing. Personally i’d give the rescuing a miss until she’s in actual trouble, but i’m the same with high slides and fast swings, so that’s just up to your parenting style i think. YOU are the mum, you really do know how to do this better than any book. Trust your baby, of course, but trust yourself to go at a pace you’re happy with. It’s baby-led, but if the parents don’t like where things are leading… they have the power to act.

  23. tracie p says:

    You poor thing, so many women needing advice–just a little pressure, right?! ;)

    Thanks for the response, all of this clamoring just goes to show you that we need more blogs out there about BLW. Thanks for being around :)

  24. lara says:

    Ok so its going really well so far thanks for this website im finding it so useful! My little girlie hasnt been phased by anything so far , spinach, balsamic vineagar, cheese scone, homemade burger… But am now worried she’s having too much!!! I know they say just to let your baby lead etc etc and they take what they want but as ive said in previous post, shes just under 6 months and i was expecting her just to be sucking or licking a couple of bits of food but oh no shes shoving it in so fast and just wants everything (not phased at all) im making sure im tioming meals

  25. lara says:

    *timing meals between her feeds so shes had her milk but she is actually eating, although lots ends up on floor etc she does swallow quite a bit is this ok at such an early age? Also she seems to really enjoy being at the table and eating and is fine when we’re clearing up etc but once i get her cleaned she normally starts crying and ends up wanting to be back on me as im bf.. this morning exactly this happened then she brought up her milk? Am i doing something wrong? I am offering water with the food too so dont think its thirst? Xx and blimey it IS very messy!! Good old antilop highchair!! Xx

  26. tracie p says:

    Lara–my daughter Georgia is just 7 months and is really desperate for the breast too after she eats. She swallows a decent amount most of the time and she gets water. Not an answer, just letting you know that we’re in the same boat!

  27. lara says:

    Thanks tracie. is good just to know we’re not alone sometimes though haha!! had a really good breakfast today but then dinner she just went mad and i was quick to get her down from table so havent got a clue what happened!! X

  28. Julia says:

    Hi there,

    My little Evie, just 6 months started on BLW 4 days ago. The first two days were fine, but today and yesterday she gave her daddy and I some good scares. We’re giving her strips of butternut squash and broccoli florets and we were going to try carrots today but chickened out, felt they weren’t soft enough. Anyway, she has legitimately choked a few times – gasping for air, turning red, struggling. It was definitely not gagging, which has also happened but we’re fine with. Can you please tell us how to minimize the choking risk? Should we make the food softer? Chose different foods to start with? Is this an indication that she’s not ready? We want to stick it out with BLW but our nerves can’t handle choking scares every night!

    • Aitch says:

      I’d maybe give your nerves a rest, and leave it for a few days, there’s really no rush. Regarding the food, how soft are you cooking it? Try to do it so that you can squash it quite easily between your thumb and forefinger, no al dente veggies for BLW babes. Carrot batons, to be honest, tend to be a great starter, so I think your instinct to go for them was right. How have you managed these chokes, by the way, it is really quite unusual for a child to choke so much in just four days, they tend to be rare occurrences (gagging, however, is very variable, some children do it a lot, some hardly at all). Is she definitely sitting up nicely by herself in her highchair before starting? (Some highchairs are better than others, it must be said…)

  29. Julia says:

    Thank you for your response – I think we must have made the food too firm, I guess I misunderstood the concept of making it firm enough for her to grip without squashing it – she has quite a firm grip! It’s very helpful to know that this isn’t normal. We took the carrots away because we felt they were too firm, guess we were right! We took the week-end off but will go back to it with softer food. She is very strong and sitting up very well on her own. When she started to choke, we just stayed close and ready to act, we didn’t want to alarm her or move her out of fear of making it worse. She was able to cough things up but they seemed like really close calls with the redness and gasping and whatnot. I hope this post helps others avoid our mistakes – make your food very soft!! Thanks again!

  30. alison says:

    At 6 months does the water we offer need to be cool boiled water or is it ok straight from the tap?

  31. MonksMum says:

    I second the comments on sitting really upright. The only time my girl has choked or gagged so hard that she’s been sick* have been when she has been reclining a bit too much in her chair. She is a really good BLWer and I guess I got a bit overconfident and let her slip down a bit / recline herself a bit. And then whoops up it all comes.

    * actually she has been sick two other times, both when well-meaning relatives have ‘helped out’ by putting her spoon into her mouth for her. Sends a strong message not to do it again :)

  32. Poppy says:

    I am loving BLW – not enjoying the gagging though! Steamed veggies are no problem. However, we tried apple today and it was so stressful with some very violent gagging on really tiny bits of apple. Should I resort to just steamed veg for a little longer or persevere with crisper food? Baby was very upset by the experience (so was I!) and I don’t want her to be put off eating. Thanks x

    • Aitch says:

      As you discovered, apples are quite the choking risk… so no more apple for a while yet, Poppy. As you’ll see in that link it’s the only thing that ever made my first daughter choke in any way, shape or form. Steamed veggies are fine, as is pasta, just normal food, really. But no apple… unless you’ve steamed it, microwaved it, or poached it in some way to soften. Or sliced it so thin you can basically see through it…

  33. Molly says:

    Hey I have tried the baby led weaning last month with my then 8 month old I gave him carrots boiled until super soft. His dad came home and seen him choking a lot and made me stop and said I was going to kill him. So I did and today a month later his sister told him the Babe should be chewing by now so now she’s doing the same thing I did or was doing and he’s praising her and saying I’m holding him back and babying him. I am at my wits end. Help please he is now 9 months and very picky like only eating sweet potato purée and squash purée I’m getting desperate!!!

    • Aitch says:

      Maybe this is the perfect opportunity to get him back onto finger food, then? What about some rice cakes, they’re nice and easy? And toast (dip it in the purees, if you’ve already made them, no sense in wasting them). Don’t get desperate, though, it’ll work out. Babies do want to eat and grow, unless something very unusual is going on. How is the baby with twirly pasta and sauce? (It’s all going to get messier from here on in, but this is really what you wanted in the first place so it’s a win.)

  34. […] able to handle eating this way, that some gagging will occur, but it is just fine. It is addressed here. I do like the idea of this method. You can watch lots of cute  and convincing videos if you […]

  35. […] This book explains the difference between choking and gagging. Basically, the gag reflex is normal, and something your baby should learn about through chewing and putting things in their mouth. And my son did gag a few times in the beginning. I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me nervous! But the key is to not intervene when your baby is gagging. If you have more questions about gagging vs choking, I suggest reading this article. […]

  36. […] gagging/choking thing is definitely scary.  The first time G gagged, I spent the whole night doing further reading and […]

  37. […] posts:  Baby-led Weaning Basics, The gagging vs choking thing, Ideas for first foods, Another great BLW overview,  The one and only research study on […]

  38. […] posts:  Baby-led Weaning Basics, The gagging vs choking thing, Ideas for first foods, Another great BLW overview,  The one and only research study on BLW […]

  39. Yummy mummy says:

    My little boy now 7 months had been on jars since he was 6 mth old, lately I’ve tried blended mash potatoe and veg and I have the same problem about the gagging thing, only I’m now one of those omg he’s choking moms! After many attempts I find myself crying into my pillow as I’m starting to feel like I’m slowing his development down plus I’m a nervous wreck and I don’t know what to do! I’m starting to feel like I’m never going to get there :-(

    • Aitch says:

      Oh dear, don’t stress, it will all work out fine in the end… but the good thing about BLW is that it does make the bit between ‘now’ and ‘in the end’ so much more pleasant. Have you had a look round the site? You’ll see that what we’ve all done is give the children food cut into finger-sized pieces and let them self-feed. Could you give that a try? (and re the choking, do a course. seriously, every parent should do one, you can’t watch them every minute of every day, you need to know what to do if they swallow something revolting in the park…)

  40. Ali says:

    My little guy is just 6 months. We’ve been doing BLW for a week now and he has had great success with a variety of things (yams, broccoli, sweet potato, toast, flatbread, avocado, watermelon). Today we tried carrots for the first time. He started gagging – which he occasionally has done but always easily popped the item out f his mouth no problem – but this time it was a silent gag, and it went on for a bit longer then I was comfortable with, about 5 seconds. His face turned red and then when he finally got it out, he threw up a bunch of breastmilk. Terrifying!! Is this a sign he isn’t ready?

    • Aitch says:

      You know I think that the throwing-up thing is SO clever, when you think about it. Okay, so something’s gone in a bit farther than I’d hoped… let’s see if i can gag it out… i can’t… so i’ll hose it out from behind with some slidey mucus and breastmilk. let me see if i can find a post i wrote about this very phenomenon, the human body is so fantastic.

  41. Melissa says:

    I really hope someone can help, i’m at such a loss and can’t find any help from anyone, including doctors!!

    My son is 8 months old, he’s been on purees since 5 months, and we’ve tried BLW SO MANY TIMES!! Each time we try it he chokes. He does NOT gag, he chokes. Everytime we tell someone about this, they assume he’s just gagging, no one has witnessed what we’ve witnessed. He takes whatever we give him (Soft carrots, sweet potato, tiny tiny noodles, stick pieces of toast, etc…) he’ll start eating it and choke. Like choke choke… bright red in the face, no breathing, no coughing, very panicky, until about 10 seconds in he projectile vomits anything he’s eaten or drinken, then starts breathing again. It’s absolutely ridiculous… still people say this is gagging. It isn’t gagging. I don’t know what to do. He wants our food so bad, he really wants to eat what we’re eating, but every time we try to give him somehting he’s choked.

    He’s choked about 7 or 8 times now, and I just can’t do it anymore. I’m so scared now, it’s ridiculous. No one has given me any advice, no book i’ve read, nothing. All i’ve ever seen is “wait a littler longer” (we’ve waited 4 months, nothing has changed), or “he isn’t choking, he’s gagging”.

    Please someone help!! What can we do?? Should I just stop feeding him?? Is something wrong? Is this normal??

    Begging for answers. :(

    • Aitch says:

      Aw, you poor things, it sounds like no fun at all.
      Can I clarify, though, are you saying that you’re doing purees and have been since 5 months? And you’re continuing with the purees but every time you let him have some finger food he’s choking? (So it’s not really a BLW thing, I mean? It’s more of a ‘my traditionally weaned child chokes on finger food?’)
      I’m going to attract the attention of the forum-users and FB-users to your query, so stand by for more answers, but from me, personally, I’m going to say go easy on yourself here… it IS frightening if they choke, and i totally respect your feelings on this. You’re the mum, you know what you can tolerate and you have the best feel for what’s going on.

      • Melissa says:

        Thanks so much. Well, we tried BLW before purees, but he kept choking, and then he wasn’t gaining weight, so we had to start purees. But we keep trying BLW in hopes we can stop the purees and teach him to eat finger foods.

    • Rachael says:

      Really sorry to hear this – it must be terrifying. I think at this point I’d be contacting my GP just to rule out any medical issues, but you already have. How big are the pieces of food you’re trying to give him? My daughter tended to need things she couldn’t fit in her mouth all at once when we were first starting out, which felt very counterintuitive but it seemed to be what she needed.

      I think it’s also important to remember that although BLW has some great advantages and works well for lots of families, it really isn’t the be-all and end-all. If it doesn’t work for your son and you, don’t do it and don’t worry about it.

    • catkin says:

      This may not actually be the best place to ask. It sounds like a known traditional weaning Thing, when babies are used to sucking in puree like they do milk, so they try to do the same with solid foods and so they get stuck. With BLW babies don’t have puree so they learn to chew and control the food in their mouths first and learn to swallow later.
      Could that be it? Is he trying to chew at all before he chokes?
      To be fair to your friends, 10 seconds then a vomit does sound like gagging more than choking to me. From what I remember of gagging they don’t always cough when they’re trying to sort themselves out, sometimes they sort of stick their tongues out and lean forwards and out it comes? But I wasn’t there.

      • Melissa says:

        Yeah he does chew a bit before he chokes, I really can’t tell what hte issue is. I’m always watching to figure out if he’s just not chewing enough, or what’s going on, but I can’t ever tell.

        Honestly, I hope he is gagging… everyone keeps saying that, so I keep hoping they’re right, but then when he stops moving or breathing, I feel like it’s just not normal and I’m back to square one again. The food he chokes on comes out when he vomits. He doesn’t gag or stick his tongue out, he just tries to cough but can’t, and can’t make any noise, and definitely stops breathing. =/

    • Alessandra says:

      Ok, well, I agree with most of what’s already been posted. I’ll only add that speech pathologists (or whatever they’re called where you are) can help with feeding problems. Tongue tie, as mentioned below, is an obvious answer but it could be something else. Also, perhaps you can feed your child in front of someone else – maybe you are confusing choking and gagging after all. I know I have occasionally jumped to action and ripped my little one out of his seat only to realize he knew what he was doing (in the end).

  42. squirt says:

    hugs, that sound scary. could you have a dr check that his mouth is formed properly? sometimes tongue tie can make it hard for babies to eat properly.

    Could you perhaps try something harder first? Like brocoli, where they can take bites of. Or something that they can’t just swallow? like a big piece of meat that he can suck on? and chew on a bit.

    you want to teach him how to chew before swallowing.

    • Eleanor says:

      Maybe those really hard rusk biscuits so he can practise having a good gnaw (whether with teeth or gums)?

      Is he still having totally smooth purees or can he manage purees that have small solid bits in?

      Poor you, that sounds unusual and worrying. And probably he will be picking up on your stress by now too.

      • Melissa says:

        We tried the baby mum mums because they dissolve, but he choked on those too. We tried Farley’s biscuits, he choked on that worse than he’s chocked on anything. He’s having only super smooth purees, because as soon as we introduce any chunk he chokes. And it’s not even like he doesn’t like the food, he loves it, he’ll eat anything.

  43. Kathleen says:

    When he has these episodes do you need to help him, thump him on the back etc or does he manage to right himself without help?

    • Melissa says:

      We used to hit him in the back, but not we just don’t know what to do because we read hitting the back is dangerous also. So we just kind of stand there in a quiet panic hoping he starts breathing again. :(

      • Spunkey says:

        Have you taken an infant CPR class? If they are choking, you should flip them and thump their back, but much easier to see demonstrated/practice with professionals, than read a description and put it into practice in the heat of the moment. However, if they are just gagging, you would not want to do that, because that could turn gagging into choking, when you start moving them around.
        Good luck sorting it out. :( It doesn’t sound pleasant at all!

  44. Vivienne says:

    My friend has similar issues with her wee one – they were referred to the paed dietician by her gp and has been given special chew toys to help desensitise his gag reflex. She also has to give him stage 1 purees and ‘melt in the mouth’ snacks such as the organix carrot puffs. I’d pop along to your gp – a traditionally weaned baby should be managing finger food and hopefully they will be able to help

    • Melissa says:

      This is really good to know, thank you so much! I’m going to go back to our doctor and mention this. Really appreciate it.

  45. Hester says:

    Sounds like you have had a tough time with it, and some great advice above here.

    With deciding if it is gagging or choking, I ‘believe’ the difference is in the sound. Gagging has a sound, choking is totally silent. PLEASE clarify this with a medical professional, but that is what I have always been told.

    Good luck finding a resolution. I agree that your GP may be the next port of call for you.

    • Spunkey says:

      My son gagged silently, so even if it is silent it can still be gagging, but if there is noise it can’t be choking, because noise can only happen if the airway is not obstructed.

  46. Leanne says:

    Can I just clear up a common misperception? BLW is NOT ‘natural’, it is not how babies used to fed in caveman days etc. I’m not casting judgement on blw here, I did it with my daughter. But the proper, natural way of weaning is by pre chewing your food then offering to bub. So more in line with purées than BLW. It breaks my heart hearing mother after mother stress about persevering with blw despite numerous choking (not gagging) incidents and children clearly distressed by it. If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it! Trust your INSTINCTS, not a book. If you really want to be natural, look up pre mastication – Alicia Silverstone famously does this.

    • Aitch says:

      Well, Alicia Silverstone was doing it with a grown child, so it wasn’t really weaning, was it? And pre-mastication is just the way people mashed foods before the invention of forks, so it’s not necessary now (although if it’s what you want to do, go for it, who cares?). ‘Natural’ is pretty much a meaningless and unnecessarily loaded term these days, I’d have thought, when there are so many highly processed products claiming to be natural, and what a cavewoman might to do conserve scarce resources (ie birdfeed from one mouth to another) is hardly relevant to the increasingly obese modern world.
      But yes, god yes, if people aren’t enjoying doing BLW they should absolutely do something else. There’s a no-brainer, right there.

  47. Mrs_Bathscum says:

    Pre-mastication is meant to be used for kids of the age Alicia’s son was, however with meat as it is difficult for young children to chew this, which is ironic as Alicia is vegan!

  48. […] Gagging is actually a safety response to food travelling too far back into the mouth so when we see … […]

  49. […] moving food around in their mouth. It does not mean they are not necessarily ready for foods yet.…choking-thing/ Having seen my child gag, and then recover, he seems to think it is […]

  50. thanks for this. my hubby and I just had a tiff about this! I too don’t react outwardly. He always either swallows it to manages to spit it out. Sometimes the gagging makes him throw up though. poor buddy.

  51. […] supporters cite a counter-argument, namely that gagging is not the same as choking. Says Donna, “a baby’s gag reflex is quite close to the front of it’s tongue meaning […]

  52. Katie says:

    Ok, so very new to BLW, but found your site. My son is will be 6 months old on Sunday, and has shown signs of readiness (he can sit up independently for short periods, has lost tongue reflex, etc.). So yesterday, I fed him a bit of carrot for dinner. He gagged a couple of times, but definitely did not choke. I was excited. This morning a gave him a banana and a small triangle of plain toast for breakfast. He really only got a few teensy bites of these, but he seemed to enjoy it- again no problem. For lunch, I let him try some sweet pepper and a bit of cheese. I’m not really sure he actually for real ate any of this, but he enjoyed chewing and sucking, mostly on the pepper. Now fast forward to tonight, I know it wasn’t the healthiest choice, but i grabbed a burger with my husband for dinner. I let my son have a french fry (I know, a no-no) and he all out choked on it. This was not gagging- it was completely different. I stayed calm and layer him over my left hand and firmly, but gently smacked his back and the piece of fry flew out onto the floor. My husband made some kind of comment about about me choking him and how he wasn’t ready for food. I told him that even a 1 year old or 10 year old for that matter could have choked. The Truth is, it scared me to death! I mean, I know it was not a healthy food choice, but in terms of his ability to self-feed it, I thought it would be fine. Is he not ready to start BLW yet?? I do not want to put my son in danger! He seems to enjoy almost every food he has tasted, and, as some one who grew up quite picky, I want to encourage him to like a variety of foods. I couldn’t bear it if something happened to him though! Advice? Tips? I’m such a novice, but I want to keep my baby safe!

    • Aitch says:

      I think perhaps the french fry was a little too thin and a little too baked for a beginner? (Although KUDOS for keeping calm and getting on with helping him sort it, that’s quite the life skill right there.)
      What you’re looking for, particularly in those early days, is food that is the size and shape of your pinkie finger and that can, when cooked, be smushed between your thumb and forefinger with some ease. Where a french fry falls down there is that they’re a good bit harder on the outside than the inside, so they don’t break down. That said, my first daughter was fine with them a little later on in the process (there’s a photo in the gallery, but probably under the word Chips as that’s what we call them.) So well done *applause*, you absolutely passed with flying colours. Your baby had a choke, you won’t give him chips again for a while, and the best news is that you learned that you don’t freak out in a crisis. Really, that’s a good day in parenting land. ;D

  53. […] he gagged. Which is normal and not really that big of a deal, but I very nearly had a heart attack. He spit out the orange mush, looked at us like we had tried […]

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