Gagging & Choking Signs

Finger Foods – How to introduce and dealing with gagging

Whether you are following Baby-led weaning (only offering finger food to your weaning baby) or a more traditional weaning experience, every baby should be offered finger food from six months. Finger foods should not be introduced before six months because your baby is not developmentally ready.

I understand that parents can feel anxious when introducing finger foods because of the risk of choking but so long as you have given baby full control over feeding themselves and the texture is correct for your baby then they are more than able to handle finger food. Outlined below I have a few tips on introducing finger foods and the difference between choking and gagging.

Tips on Introducing Finger foods

- Until your baby has developed the pincer grab offer your baby finger size pieces of vegetables or fruit in the palm of their hand.

- The perfect texture is that you can squish the fruit or vegetable between your thumb and finger.

- Start with baked sweet potato and sprinkle some cinnamon on top for added flavour.

- Show your baby the way. By eating an apple or eating what they are eating they will imitate you and learn to bring the food to their mouth.

- Offer a dip and a dipper such as a muffin and homemade hummus. Your baby will have a fun experience and feel like they have full control over the meal.

- As your baby develops the pincer grab and can handle more texture offer pea size portions of chicken or harder vegetables.

- Use fusilli pasta with a puree of your choice.

- Start to offer suitable family meals as a finger food making sure any lumps are the correct size and texture.

Choking or Gagging

Gagging is a safety reflex that prevents choking and is caused when a baby puts too much food in their mouth or if a food is too far back in their mouth. Unlike adults, a babies’ gag reflex is situated in the middle of their tongue, so it’s expected that they will gag at some point when they start to wean onto solid foods.

Remember that gagging is normal – your baby is learning how to eat and it’s their way of preventing choking. They aren’t spitting out the food due to taking a disliking, but rather they are being introduced to having new and different textures on their tongues.

KEY SIGNS OF GAGGING

1. Child will open mouth and thrust tongue forward. (Face may appear bright red)
2. Child may sputter and/or cough.
3. Looks of frustration or discomfort rather than fear/terror.

What is choking?

Choking is the opposite of gagging and happens when a person’s airways are blocked. It’s understandable that you will be worried about your baby choking on food; however don’t let it stop you from weaning your little one. Learning what to do in the event of choking will avoid anxiety when feeding your baby.

KEY SIGNS OF CHOKING

1. The child’s face will turn blue.
2. Silence and/or inability to make noise.

*However, soft or high-pitched sounds may be heard while inhaling.

3. Child may begin coughing (in an attempt to clear passage).

*This may be normal, or weak/ineffective coughing should they fail to clear passage.

4. In severe cases, the child may lose consciousness.

Look for a paediatric first aid course in your area or check out st Johns ambulance for what to do in this situation.