Last Updated on: 2 May 2017
As parents start the solids journey, one of my key pieces of advice is to learn the difference between choking and gagging. Completing an infant first aid course is always one of my top recommendations for new parents. I think having the right knowledge gives you a confidence boost like nothing else. Read some of my other top recommendations for starting solids here AND learn more about backing yourself with increasing the complexity of textures and food types as your child develops here. Starting solids with your baby is a fascinating time!
I sat with Kim Hendricks from Citadel First Aidin 2015 and filmed this handy video clip about first aid when it comes to feeding children, the solids journey and the essential infant first aid skills of knowing how to handle a choking incident.
What is the difference between gagging and choking?
Babies will sometimes gag as they learn to regulate the amount of milk or food they are swallowing. However, there is a large difference between gagging and choking. It is important that all caregivers learn to recognise the difference. The gag reflex automatically closes off the throat and pushes the tongue to the front of the mouth. This is a reflex we have for our whole lives. If your baby gags, it will be a temporary situation, there is no medical emergency and it will resolve itself naturally and quickly. On the other hand, choking occurs when the airway becomes blocked AND prevents breathing. Generally, if your baby chokes, she will start to cough in an effort to dislodge the blockage. If the blockage is significant, the baby may not make any noise as air is not going around the item. Caregivers must always supervise young children during meals.
Therefore, it is really important we help children learn to deal with gagging. The best way it to mentally prepare your positive mantra “oops that food was too big, lets spit it out”. Giving the baby calm, reassurance and an appropriate action to take is super important. If you do get worried, let their hand and gravity do the work. Putting your fingers into their mouth or hitting their back could turn gagging into choking. The gag reflex is vital for humans to have but it needs to be trained so that it is not oversensitive. Training a gag reflex is done by introducing foods that get more difficult along the feeding continuum in a timely manner.
Have you done your infant first aid? Have you ever been worried by gagging?