Help a choking baby
Know what to do if your baby can’t breathe.
A coughing and gasping baby needs immediate attention.

Choking is the coughing spasm and sputtering that happen when liquids or solids get into the windpipe. A newborn’s cough reflex should clear the windpipe of liquid within 10 to 30 seconds.

Choking in newborns is particularly common in the first day after birth, especially if the baby has swallowed any blood or meconium.
It is also common when the milk flow is very strong, especially around 3-4 days of age. Most babies cope with these episodes quite well, and either swallow the regurgitated contents or cough them out.

Prevent choking

  • Nothing should enter your newborn’s mouth besides your breast, a bottle and his own fingers (or a dummy and chewable toy if necessary).
  • Do a regular scan of the area within baby’s reach and remove small objects.
  • Babies cannot tell us if they are choking, so be alert for the signs. A baby turning blue or dusky or visibly struggling to breathe.
  • If you see tears and arm and leg movements, but you hear no crying, also suspect choking.

What to do

  • Don’t panic, and don’t do the Heimlich manoeuvre or hit him on the back.
  • Turn the baby onto his front and tilt his head and body downwards gently.
  • Look in his mouth and gently try to hook out anything that is visible in his mouth.
  • If this doesn’t work, get him to medical help as soon as possible.

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