Transitioning to solids is an exciting milestone for Baby and you when he’s ready. Yet, it’s also a time that comes with caution in regard to choking. While infant choking is scary, it’s largely preventable.

TIME FOR SOLIDS?

“Babies reach milestones that show they are ready for solid foods,” says Megan Brennard, M.D., board-certified pediatric emergency physician at The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial.

Brennard says to look for these readiness signs:

• Sitting up
• Holding the head up high
• Opening the mouths when food comes near or reaching for food when YOU eat
• Ability to move food to the back of the mouth    

“Always observe your child while eating. Children should always be seated to reduce the risk of choking,” says Brennard.

SAFEST FINGER FOODS

Once your little one is ready to move beyond rice cereal and jar food, offer healthy choices.

“I usually offer finger foods around 8 or 9 months after the child is used to soft solids or purees,” says Rosemary Hunter, M.D., assistant professor at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Hunter says scrambled eggs, avocado, mashed sweet potatoes, bananas, soft fruits or cooked small pieces of veggies are good options.

“Foods to avoid include anything hard or difficult to chew without molars,” Hunter says. “Avoid things rounded and firm that can occlude the airway. This includes whole grapes, whole pieces of hot dogs, whole nuts, raw carrots or even raisins,” she adds.

SIGNS OF CHOKING

Brennard says a choking baby may start with sudden coughing or gagging. Watch closely as he does this as it often helps to clear the object from the airway.

If the item is lodged, Baby will be unable to move air, speak or cry. “He may have a color change to purple or blue around the mouth if the obstruction is making him unable to breathe adequately,” says Hunter, adding that if this is the case, immediate action is necessary.

TAKING ACTION

If Baby is choking but conscious, Hunter offers the following instruction:

Lay the infant face down across your outstretched arm and do five firm back blows in between the shoulder blades. This allows gravity to help dislodge an object. Flip the child over and place two fingers on the lower sternum at the nipple line and do five chest thrusts. Repeat these two maneuvers as needed until you hear sound from the infant suggesting air movement. Do a finger sweep if you see the object in the mouth, but be careful not to push it farther into the back of the mouth.

“Children older than 1 can be given chest thrusts or the Heimlich maneuver during a choking spell,” says Brennard.

Obviously, if the child does not respond, call 911 and prepare to administer CPR chest compressions.

For nervous new parents who think their baby is choking when he really isn’t (like holding his breath during a diaper change), Hunter days don’t worry.

“There are no dangers in following choking procedures even if the child isn’t choking. You are not hitting with enough force to cause injury, and the child’s cries tell you that his airway is open,” she says.