Weaning Baby: Gagging or Choking?
Is the baby gagging or choking?
This is an important question for baby led weaning. In this type of weaning, self-feeding of various finger foods is involved. The baby grasps the food, puts it inside his mouth, and gradually learns to adjust to the chewing and swallowing motions that accompany the ingestion of solid foods.
Baby-led weaning is particularly favored by many parents. Recent studies show that allowing babies to self-feed fosters independence. It also makes them grow leaner and healthier later in life.
Now, how do you tell gagging from choking? When is it necessary to offer your assistance to the baby?
Do you know that a self-feeding baby already has the ability to manipulate food inside his mouth? The risk of choking is very little, though this does not mean that you leave a self-feeding child alone. That’s the ultimate rule of self-feeding toddlers: they should never be left unmonitored when they are eating.
When the food is in a place that’s too far back inside the mouth, the muscles there become involved in a reflex action. That’s the gag reflex. Babies and adults alike have it. The gag reflex protects us from choking. A gagging baby is not in danger. When the baby starts to gag, it means that he is slowly learning to not put his food too far back inside his mouth. The baby may cough when he gags. Don’t worry. The gagging is temporary. The baby will learn to adjust with the textures of solid food.
When a baby gags, never help him!
If you help a gagging baby, you are endangering him. He will eventually spit the food on his own. If you try to assist him, you will make the food stick farther inside his throat and cause him to choke. Leave a gagging baby alone. That reflex is natural and harmless.
Choking is easily recognizable from gagging. Choking is indicated by silence. The baby is silent as he gasps for breath. He will turn blue. His mouth is wide open. Don’t panic.
It is also best if you can take a short course on infant first aid so the techniques can be demonstrated to you by a specialist. There are areas that offer it for free. Check in your local health department. An infant first aid is priceless for any parent.