Learn first aid for a baby who is choking
A baby who is choking will be unable to cry, cough, make any noise or breathe.
1. Give up to five back blows: hold the baby face-down along your thigh with their head lower than their bottom. Hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades up to five times. If back blows do not dislodge the blockage, move on to step 2.
Back blows create a strong vibration and pressure in the airway, which is often enough to dislodge the blockage, allowing them to breathe again. Support their head while you hold them in position.
2. Give up to five chest thrusts: turn the baby over so they are facing upwards. Place two fingers in the middle of their chest just below the nipples. Push sharply downwards up to five times.
Chest thrusts squeeze the air out of the baby’s lungs and may dislodge the blockage.
3. Call 999 if the blockage does not dislodge.
Continue with cycles of back blows and chest thrusts until the blockage dislodges, help arrives or the baby becomes unresponsive. If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.
Watch how to help a baby who is choking (1 minute)
Common questions about first aid for a baby who is choking
What can a baby choke on?
Newborn babies can choke on things like curdled milk, mucus or vomit. As they get older, they move on to solids and explore by putting things into their mouth. This means food or small toys can easily get stuck in their throat, stopping them from breathing.
How hard should the back blows be?
You should change the force of the back blows depending on the size of the baby: be gentler with a smaller baby than with a larger baby. The force you use to deliver the back blows should also be relative to your own strength. The back blows need to be hard enough to cause a vibration in the airway and dislodge the blockage.
Why do I have to hold a baby with its head lower than its bottom?
Babies commonly choke on liquid (mucus or curdled milk), so keeping their head lower than their bottom helps the liquid to drain out – gravity will help.
Why do I have to support the head?
Supporting the head will help to keep the baby’s airway open, helping to dislodge the blockage from the airway.
Can I do abdominal thrusts (Heimlich manoeuvre) on a baby?
No, don’t squeeze a baby’s tummy.
Abdominal thrusts are used to help choking children and adults only. Using abdominal thrusts on a baby could damage their internal organs, which are fragile and still developing.
If back blows do not dislodge the blockage, you should use chest thrusts instead.
Should I try to pull the object out with my fingers?
Do not put your fingers into their mouth if you cannot see an object. You risk pushing any blockage further down or damaging the back of the throat, which could swell and cause further harm.
However, if you can clearly see an object in a baby's mouth and you are able to pluck it out safely with your fingertips, you could do so.
What should I do if a baby becomes unresponsive and stops breathing?
If a baby is choking, should I hold them upside down by their feet?
No. This is not effective. You may cause further injury if you happen to drop them. The action of tipping them upside down may also move the blockage further down their throat.
How do I help a child who is choking?
Find out how to help a child who is choking.
How do I help an adult who is choking?
Find out how to help an adult who is choking.
Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for a baby who is choking.
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