Help! My Baby Is Choking!

What do you do when your baby starts choking? Being prepared can be a matter of life or death for your child. Scary, but true.

I had a lot of ideas for what I wanted to write about this week bouncing around in my head. Until yesterday.

My toddler was asleep. My husband was in the bath. Just as I settled down to do a little writing my 13 month old woke up from her nap. Putting my laptop away I walked to her room and snuggled her. I changed her diaper and brought her out into the living room to play with some of her favorite toys.

Now, for her snack. I grabbed an apple and chopped it up into a small dice, like usual. My youngest has a mouthful of teeth and she’s been teething again. Apple is soothing for her sore mouth. I put her snack in a baby bowl and gave it to her, then turned to go and finish my writing.

Suddenly she ran towards me gasping in short, tight wheezes. She was choking. My greatest nightmare, come to life. I ran over and picked her up. She was, understandably, terrified. Confused. I was pretty terrified too but I willed myself to stay calm.

I placed my flat hand on her chest and positioned her so her legs were higher than her chest and she was facing the floor at an angle, her body resting on my arms. She was wheezing and gasping, gripping my arms with her hands. Both of my hands were being used to support her weight (she’s a big baby), so I delivered five hard blows to her upper back using the entire strength of my shoulder.

Out coughed several pieces of apple, along with one big baby cry. She tried to swallow a bunch of pieces at once. I was so relieved, but when I looked at my baby she seemed worried. “That probably scared her“, I thought. I set her down to see how she was doing. She immediately began to tear up and threw her little arms around me. “Why isn’t she making any noise“, I wondered? She just clutched me and yawned, over and over.

Something was still stuck in her throat, but I couldn’t get it out. So I sat with her on my lap. I put on a movie that she loves, My Neighbor Totoro, and leaned her body slightly forward while she watched it and yawned. Thirty-five minutes later she leaned forward and vomited up several more apple pieces and a huge amount of mucus. As she smiled at me and let out a big laugh, I knew all the apple was gone.

Choking is my greatest fear. It has been since my oldest daughter was born. They brought us into a CPR class at the hospital and had us practice some Heimlich maneuvers and chest compressions on a plastic baby dummy. “How can this dummy possibly prepare me for when my child starts choking“, I thought? “I’ll never remember it!

I watched many supplemental videos on these lifesaving methods once I brought my oldest home, trying desperately to sear the techniques into my memory. More than anything, I was terrified that I would freeze up and be unable to act with the necessary swiftness to save my child.

In the moment my youngest began choking I did not freeze. My mom-instincts took over and I acted very swiftly, instinctively recalling all the classes and videos that I watched with my oldest daughter years before my youngest was even born.

If your child starts to choke you must be prepared. I cannot stress enough the importance of attending your local CPR class to learn about the Heimlich and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation maneuvers. If you cannot access an in-person class, practice with YouTube and a baby doll (though in-person classes are the best option).

You are responsible for the health and welfare of your children. By taking steps to prepare yourself in case they choke, you are safeguarding their future. It’s scary, but this is a matter of life or death for your children. Be the support that they need and learn CPR, Heimlich maneuvers, and keep poison control numbers readily available.

My daughter won’t be getting chopped, unpeeled apples any time soon, let me tell you!

Choking is very scary. Preparation can help keep your family safe. Have you attended a local safety class that teaches CPR or the Heimlich maneuver? Have you ever used them to help a choking child? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Thanks for reading! Be safe.

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