Guide to Baby-led weaning : Choking and Gagging
Before you start with Baby-led weaning :
I am breaking it down into small pointer before I share more details on the same
- Be informed : educate yourself about BLW. Understand what exactly is BLW – be clear about it. Learn about the pros and cons ; the dos and don’ts. Be confident before you proceed.
- Understand about choking & gagging : the difference, the immediate first aid incase of choking; highly recommend watching videos to understand.
- When to start : the baby has to be ready before you start ( signs of readiness of the baby)
- Food to offer : know what to offer, when to offer and how to offer.
- The prepared adult : be prepared for the mess, longer mealtimes, observe the baby (like for hunger cues, what the child likes/dislikes, look out for allergies and so on) and be prepared with all the above mentioned pointers
In this part I am going to share about the two giants of Baby-led weaning : Gagging and Choking. I have also attached links to videos for better understanding. As new parents we might tend to panic when the child gags, we need to hold ourselves back and trust our baby. Understanding the difference between choking and gagging is very important.
Disclaimer : All my posts based on BLW is through what I have learnt from various resources and from my personal experience. I am neither a nutritionist/paediatrician nor an expert in this topic.
Gagging is normal, It is a defence mechanism to prevent the baby from choking. It will happen ’n’ number of times as the baby learns to eat. It is very common and is super important (gag reflex). All babies gag in their journey of learning to eat solids. Gag reflex occurs at the back of our mouth, it is a muscular contraction that forces the back of the throat to close. It is triggered to prevent us from swallowing – to prevent us from choking. Evoked when the roof of the mouth is touched or back off the tongue or throat. And I say us because not just infants gag even we adults gag.
When do babies gag?
They gag when they are not ready to swallow the food. If the baby takes a bigger bite of food or too much food into their mouth, or if the food starts to go too far back into their mouth before they have chewed it sufficiently and is unable to handle food in their mouth to chew, the gag reflex is triggered. Sometimes even if the bite is bigger the baby will be able to move the food around their mouth and chew – the first time I saw M2 do that I was like ‘seriously, how did he eat that?’. The baby might have the food in their mouth for a longer time as they try to chew it : there may be a lot of gagging or no gagging at all, they may chew and swallow the food or push partially/fully out. If the baby gags as they eat their food, the reflex will push the food towards the front of the tongue.
When your baby gags they may cough, make a little noise and they may go a little red in the face. But they will continue to eat with bothering much.
Video of a baby gagging :
Choking is when food (or other objects) block the baby’s airway making it difficult or impossible for the baby to breathe (sometimes causing death). If a baby is choking, they will be unable to cry, cough, make any other noise or even breathe. And needs immediate help. We need to know what action has to be taken incase of emergency (the first aid) – be the prepared adult.
The baby can choke on food or even their milk but it is largely avoidable – all you have to do is to follow safety measures. Also, even if are following tradition weaning gagging and choking are two things that we definitely have to be fully aware off.
Safety measures to avoid choking :
- Begin weaning only when the baby is developmentally ready (look for signs of readiness in the baby)
- While eating baby has to be seated in upright position
- 100% supervision is necessary while the baby is having food.
- Never put your finger into your baby’s mouth to pull the food out as you might push the food further back in. Especially incase of gagging let the baby handle.
- Offer the right food and in the right shape/size.
- Educate yourself about choking /gagging : the signs & first aid (Attaching a video below)
First Aid incase of choking :
First aid and CPR on a choking infant/baby
List of Foods identified as Choking Hazards
- Raw apple / Raw pear
- Whole nuts
- Raw carrots
- Chips ( crispy food : they break into sharp pieces)
- Grapes / berries
- Leafy vegetable (cabbage/spinach/lettuce)
- Small pieces of meat
These food has to be given in the right way to decrease the possibility of choking.
For example : Raw apple is a choking hazard – How to serve an apple ? peel the skin and cook/steam the apple.
Learn on how to serve the food before you prepare it for your baby – What food to give based on the baby’s age? ; How to cook the food? ; how to cut the food?