Baby Led Weaning

Growing healthy babies with healthy appetites

Choking – why we need to stop uselessly fretting about it and instead Learn What To Do If It Happens.

Have a look at this article from the Daily Mail, it perfectly (and sadly) sums up what we BLWers bang on about constantly. Cut Stuff Up.

We’ve all been through what the poor, poor mother of 18-month-old Toby has, that moment when you are at someone else’s house and they don’t cut up grapes and you have that moment of preciousness thinking ‘oh I really don’t want my kid eating those but am I prepared to make myself look like a prat by going and getting a knife..?’ well, give into it. That’s parental instinct, that’s wot that is.

As for the blueberries… lord I hadn’t even thought about them. Certainly with my two girls I am at pains to get them to cut round things in half with their teeth before they put them into their mouths, but I have never considered blueberries actively dangerous. Maybe our grandmothers knew what they were doing, encouraging us to take dainty mouthfuls? I guess the instinct that I had to squish anything that looked a little too robust (blueberries and clementines in particular if I recall correctly) served me well.

Thankfully (given that it is in the Mail) the main thrust of the article I agree with wholeheartedly – we should all do an infant resus course, something this site has been saying For Ever. What possible harm can it do?

I’ve said it before but the only time I’ve had to pick a kid up, turn them upside down and wallop their back hard was some child in the park, no relation of mine and many, many years beyond the weaning stage. (Incidentally, the descriptions of what a choke looks like in that piece seem to me to be excellent, from what I observed that day. It’s hard to put that look of silent, exponential panic into words). I only thank God I was there that day, for had I not been, that little boy’s story might have been infinitely worse than little Toby’s.

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34 Responses to “Choking – why we need to stop uselessly fretting about it and instead Learn What To Do If It Happens.”

  1. Jane says:

    I used to cut up blueberries because otherwise they were eaten in seconds flat – cutting them up meant they lasted that bit longer. Never occurred to me you could choke on one though – they’re pretty squashy.

  2. Lin says:

    When mine were tiny, I would squsih blueberries by biting them myself and then serving them – nice. Bleurgh.

    But, yes, do a resus cource – and I have said that to any parent embarking on weaning by whatever method.

    My one and only choking incident to date was on DD2’s first birthday when she crammed in a handful of (carefully halved) grapes and turned purple. A swift slap in the shoulder baldes of an upside down child and about 6 halves came pinging back out. She was a touch teary when I turned her right way up, then she took a deep breath and dived for the grapes again.

    So – I totally agree with your headline.

  3. bimbambaloney says:

    I agree the descriptions of choking are excellent. I’m now very nervous about blueberries being as hey are a current favourite around here. I assume the combination of blueberries and ice cream did not help in that situation. St John’s Ambulance have been advertising first aid courses on TV with the main theme being choking. Our HVs run a infant resus course as a matter of, well, as a matter of course. I wish it was standard throughout the UK.

  4. Beth says:

    So … cutting up blueberries? Does anyone? Should I? I’d never thought of cutting blueberries, because they’re so small. For the record, I do still cut up grapes and cherry toms (at 28 months)…

    I did have a bit of an :argh: moment today when he shoved a fistful of blueberries into his mouth and turned round to show me, he also likes to toss them into his mouth (not properly, just sort of puts them in fast). Hmmm.

    • Jess M. says:

      My 12 month old eats bluberries like they are going out of style & I never cut them up. She’s been eating them for quite some time & does have 8 teeth which can help. I do remember seeing them come out whole so I thought to cut them to help with the digestion but it seems now that she’s older I can hear her ‘crunch’ them with her gums. I guess if you are worried you can but I think trusting them is what BLW is all about. So glad I found out about this way of life!

  5. Eleanor says:

    Reminds me, on the infant first aid course I did, I said something about being worried that I’d forget the details, get things in the wrong order or whatever. The course teacher said don’t worry about that, the important thing is to do *something* along the right lines. What you don’t want is to stand there going ohmygodohmygodwhatdoIdowhatdoIdo? and being useless – so with any luck the resus course information in the back of your brain will kick in even if it’s not perfect.

  6. Claire says:

    I agree.. fabulous description of choking. Personally, we’ve had an incident with grapes at a friend’s house (around 8 months actually, and they were halved), but fortunately this friend was a RN. Then more recently with a mandarin, I actually ran out of the house so that I could scream for help if necessary. We live in a set of townhouses and neighbours are very close, but that turned out not to be necessary.

  7. Jem says:

    I squish blueberries with my thumb – if they’re flat they’re not throat-blocking-shape.

  8. Claire says:

    I can honestly say it has never occurred to me to cut up blueberries but I’m not a huge fan to we rarely have them in the house. If we do they get neglected I’m afraid to say and end up in a cake!

    I am super vigilant about grapes, cherry toms, olives etc though.

    I agree its a good description of choking and so very different from gagging. Having read the article I can remember my infant resus course despite it being well over 3 years ago that I did it.

  9. Laura says:

    I smush blueberries and peas slightly (just enough to break the skin), but he could probably handle them without it. I cut grapes in half.

    Honestly my little one has more trouble with ground beef and rice/quinoa – I think because he kind of inhales the grains. Doesn’t choke, but definitely hasn’t figured out how to eat it without gagging.

    • Aitch says:

      oh yes that’s true, my daughter’s did that too with couscous. i started over-cooking it a bit so that the grains didn’t separate so well, and that helped. re the ground beef, which i think we call mince here, i used not to break it up too well, say for something like bolognese sauce, so that there were always a few lumps to take out and hand over.

  10. kat says:

    I actually very, very much disagree with you that what is dangerous is not cutting things up. I really believe that children need to learn to eat food in its natural state, if food is obsessively cut up you are therefore reliant on it being cut up and inevitably it will not always BE cut up, but your child will not necessarily be able to cope with it. Although you can NEVER entirely mitigate the risk of choking while a child is learning about food, I really believe the safest way is to actually teach children how to manage food themselves including teaching them how to prevent their own choking by supervising them whilst they are learning to make their own decisions about how to handle chewing and swallowing food items and the various consequences of decisions. What you forget is that a child can still choke on cut up food and in fact cutting up some foods make them more of a choking hazard not less because of the particular size, shape and texture of the pieces.

    • Aitch says:

      have you had a look round the site, Kat? i don’t think anyone is advocating ‘obsessively’ cutting stuff up, are they? What foods are you thinking of that are more dangerous cut up than not, would you say? We’re really just talking about cherry toms, grapes and other round, throat-shaped things here. Apart from that, BLWers tend to have a ‘knock yourself out, kiddo’ kind of an attitude.

    • Richelle says:

      I obsessively cut up choking hazard food. I also obsessively buckle my children’s seat belts when we travel in the car, and obsessively not leave them alone in the bath tub.

      • Aitch says:

        I presume the point you are trying to make is an undermining one, but in fact it merely serves to reinforce the point that I was making, which was that we should accept that, yes, bad things can happen and take steps to know what to do about them. You can leave your child unbuckled in his or her car seat every day of their lives and they’ll come to no harm so long as you never have an accident. It’s not an accident-prevention product, the car seat, it’s a damage limitation one.
        Similarly, you can leave them slipping about in a bath to their hearts’ content, so long as they don’t go under the water and drown. You keeping an eye on them doesn’t change the essential danger of child + water, it just means that in the event of something dangerous happening, you’re there to stop things getting too bad.
        So with food, as I say, the thing to do with regards to choking is not necessarily to cut everything up into tiny pieces, unless you plan to be there for everything they eat for the rest of their childhoods (indeed, lives. I’ve said it before but the one time I used my resus knowledge was on a four-ish year old boy in a park. Total stranger to me, I’ve no idea how he was weaned).
        Far better not to obsess pointlessly, but to be sensible and moderate and know what to do to limit damage in the event that something untoward happens. Teach your child how to manage food from a young age, teach them to chew first and swallow later, let them learn how to handle a larger item, within reason. All the while with you watching, just as with the bath. After all, if your child chokes on something that until that moment you didn’t consider ‘choking hazard food’, you’ll both be better served by an infant resus course than a smug satisfaction that you were doing everything right re food until then.

  11. Aitch says:

    actually having read my post back i can see that it is open to interpretation… to clarify, when i say ‘cut stuff up’ i guess i mean ‘cut/squish the stuff up that the children in the article i linked to choked on but apart from that don’t stress about choking so much as know what to do if it actually happens’. cheers Kat.

  12. Kat says:

    Cutting up anything can be dangerous if you don’t know why you’re doing it. Particularly if you then think you are safe because you have cut it up. It isn’t “cut things up” or “don’t cut them up” but know what the risks are and why, and be vigilant. Some things like apple can be more dangerous if cut into pieces, certain ways of cutting can make food more dangerous, cutting grapes or blueberries is not as effective as squashing them for example and sometimes always cutting things up means a child needs to have things cut up or they are more at risk when they encounter non-cut food. But yes, the post makes it sound like indiscriminate cutting for cutting’s sake is required.

    • Aitch says:

      Okay, Kat, thanks. I think if you take the time to look around the site and forum you will see that this is broadly the point of BLW, so there is no argument there.

  13. […] Hi there… I know it's scary. We've all been there, but your baby is less likely to choke on something they put in their own mouth. It's a good idea to be able to recognise the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is just nature's way of not swallowing something that's too big or not right. Gagging is GOOD. Choking is silent, while with gagging there is a sputtering sound. This article might help you. Also the included link to the newspaper article is a good one too. This will pass faster than you can imagine, and soon, you'll be giving you LO a fork and letting them attack a plate of pasta.…learn-happens/ […]

  14. Aby says:

    Anyone can choke on anything – whether it is squishy, cut up or solid. The physiology of choking is that the item gets caught and won’t go down, so basically you can cut up grapes and blueberries etc, but there is still a risk of choking.

    The best way to remedy this is to do a First Aid course and to watch your child while they are eating.

    • Aitch says:

      Amen to that, sister, but I think the gist is that grapes are so perfectly windpipe=shaped that what you learned in the First Aid course might not easily be applied. But oh yes I couldn’t agree more re. educating yourself about First Aid.

  15. henn says:

    Thanks for the post. It reminds me to be vigilant.
    Although I have a sneaky feeling the babies that tend to choke were not BLW-ed.
    My toddler was blw-ed since 6 months old and thankfully never choked. She is now 2 years 3 months.

    I agree with Kat. What a toddler needs most is training on handling chunky food. Of course round hard stuff like peanuts or whole grapes are definitely NOT recommended.
    But cutting up or squishing up everything beats the purpose.
    It’s all explained very clear in Gill Rapley’s BLW book.

  16. debs says:

    I have heard about a particular method, IF your child is actually choking, that you pull both arms up in the air above their head. I have not tried it but am wondering if this could work?? Has anyone heard of this method?

    • Aitch says:

      I haven’t heard of it, but am no expert. I wouldn’t have thought that a time like that would be ripe for experimentation, though, so would tend to stick to the ‘turn them upside down and whack their back’ method i think.

  17. Claire says:

    Hi, interesting debate and feel compelled to reply. I am an accredited first aid trainer and have 15 years experience as a peadiatric nurse, 5 years in childrens A&E. Also a mother of two little girls so first hand experience of weaning and choking as a parent with all the guilt ridden emotions of being a good parent.!!!

    Debs, PLEASE do not try your untested methods for managing a choking child. there is no research or published evidence to say that putting arms in the air will clear the obstruction. Tip child downwards and give 5 back slaps and 5 chest thrusts. These steps meet the Resus Council guidelines.

    Not sure if I can stress the importance of doing a Child Basic Life Support/First Aid course. Acting decisively and knowledgably could save a childs life! Please see my website for more info

    Thanks for reading, Claire from Child Matters, Marlow Buckinghamshire.

  18. jenn says:

    If it’s any consolation, I am familiar with the method you mentioned of raising your child’s arms over his head to relieve choking. Theoretically, it raises the diaphragm, opens the airway, etc. in effort to clear the obstruction. As Claire stated, I’m not aware of any medical evidence that actually supports that, but it’s something I grew up hearing and I have admittedly raised my own son’s arms over his head while coughing (not choking) because that’s what was done to me by my mother under the same circumstances. Thank goodness neither of us have ever needed further emergency assistance…
    So glad I stopped by this site and read this post. I will certainly educate myself on the approved process and pray I never need to put it to practice. Just wanted to share that to let you (and anyone else who hasn’t come forward) know you weren’t alone in hearing that.

  19. […] course may be an idea for all new parents (St. John ambulance and Red Cross both organise them), but this article puts it quite neatly when it reminds you that you have to make sure that you cut stuff up – […]

  20. day care says:

    childcare Albuquerque…

    […]Choking – why we need to stop uselessly fretting about it and instead Learn What To Do If It Happens. – Baby Led Weaning[…]…

  21. Gill Rapley says:

    While I don’t want to dismiss the risks of choking in babies, or suggest that it isn’t a good idea to cut grapes and cherry tomatoes in half, I do think there’s a danger of getting things out of perspective, based on the DM article. First, the little girl: She was three years old! Even if you were to decide to cut up blueberries for a baby of six months, would you really expect to still be doing it when he or she was three? Maybe the problem in this case was more to do with the fact that the blueberries were in ice cream, which slides down so easily? Or maybe it’s just the case that anyone can choke on a blueberry, given the right circumstances?
    What about the 18-month-old little boy? The DM article doesn’t say how long Toby had been having grapes, nor how long his parents planned to cut them up for him, but I can’t help wondering whether the fact that he had never been allowed to discover how to manage a whole grape might not be relevant. Maybe his lack of experience was more crucial than the fact that the grape was whole? I like Kat’s comment about teaching children to bite such foods rather than put them in whole and I would suggest that the earlier they get the chance to begin practising this, the better – maybe not at six months, but at least soon after they’ve shown that they can cope with halved grapes. What do others think?

    • Aitch says:

      I think there is a danger of getting things out of perspective reading ANY Daily Mail article, Gill, that’s practically their modus operandi… ;-D I posted the blog piece in response to some panicked posts I saw on our forum and on Mumsnet, the article upset a lot of parents. Certainly, at three and five, my children religiously bite grapes into two because I thought it was a great habit to get into from an early age, but I do think that the main thing as a parent, regardless of weaning approach, is to have an idea what to DO if there is a choke situation. Like I say, the only time I’ve ever done infant resus was on someone else’s kid in the park.

      I suppose I see it much as I see car seats, my two could clamber all over the back of the car and be perfectly safe so long as no-one ploughs into the back of us, but in case of that one time when things go wrong, I like either to know what to do or to have a safety mechanism in place.

  22. Rah says:

    Both my boys were BLW’d – The first (now 3) gagged on everything, but never choked. The second (8mo) rarely gagged but the other day, choked on a piece of fluff he’d picked up from the carpet. It could have happened to anyone, any child, any place, irrelevant of how they weaned – the course only took a couple of hours and in a second of blind panic, was worth every milisecond!

    Needless to say, he was fine, brought it back up with a load of sick, had a feed & cuddle and crawled happily off to find his next toy while I sobbed in a heap on the floor.

  23. […] 6 weeks into our BLW journey the subject of choking does tend to linger at the back of my mind. Not in a scary way, but just (god forbid) if anything […]

  24. nadine says:

    Well remember adults can choke on food too, but it doesn’t mean whatever food it was isn’t safe for them.

    I don’t get why these kids choked though. How in the world do you choke on a blueberry? I’ve been doing BLW with my 6 month old but this article worries me. I know the book says babies can choke on purees, but actually I’ve never heard of that happening.

    • Aitch says:

      I suppose anything round could get stuck in a throat, adult or child. But when they were very wee I smushed things like that just a bit before sticking them on the highchair.

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