How to help a baby who is choking – explained by the British Red Cross
We all hope our little ones will never choke or need any kind of emergency help – but by learning some simple, easy-to-remember first aid, you can feel confident that you could help your baby should you ever need to.
New-born babies can choke on things such as curdled milk, mucus or vomit. As they move onto solids and explore by putting things into their mouths, food or small toys can easily get stuck in their throat, stopping them from breathing.
If a baby is choking:
- 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 five back blows do not dislodge the object, move on to the next step.
- Give up to five chest thrusts. Turn the baby over so they are facing upwards and place two fingers in the middle of their chest just below the nipples. Push sharply downwards up to five times.
- Call 999 if the object has not cleared, and continue with cycles of back blows and chest thrusts.
Rowena learnt first aid after having her baby daughter. Little did she know that she would end up saving another baby’s life.
Rowena was in the café at a department store, along with her mum and five-month-old daughter. Sitting near them was another mother who was feeding her nine-month-old baby girl some homemade food. “Given we had two little baby girls, we exchanged compliments on the girls and then continued with our business,” Rowena said. Leaving her mother and daughter at the table, Rowena went to buy the coffees.
While at the counter she heard a loud commotion from the back of the café. Looking around, she realised it was the mother she’d just met. “She was screaming ‘My baby, my baby’ over and over again,” Rowena said. “I could see there was something wrong with the little girl as she wasn’t moving and was very quiet. Instinctively, I left the queue and ran to the back of the café to see if I could help. I think it was my mother’s instinct that kicked in.”
When Rowena arrived back at the table, two other customers had come to the mother’s aid. “They were trying to calm the mother down while furiously patting the back of the baby girl,” she said. “I was desperately trying to make sense of the situation, as it was chaotic, and I quickly realised from the signs that she was choking on the baby food she was being fed. “I told the women attempting to help to give the girl to me,” she said. “They were on autopilot and didn’t respond to me, so I said ‘I’ve done first aid’ and took the baby from them.
Having done a baby and child first aid course with the British Red Cross, Rowena felt confident that she could help. “I sat on a chair and held the baby girl face down along the length of my left leg with her head lower than my knee,” she said. “I then started to give her back blows – hitting her firmly on the back between the shoulder blades. Upon delivering the second or third back blow, the baby girl started to cry, so I realised that she could now breathe and that the blockage in her throat had gone.” Rowena handed the girl back to her mother, reassuring her that everything was now okay. She then realised that her own hands were shaking from the adrenalin of it all. “I didn't fully realise until that point what had just happened and the gravity of it, and how it had impacted me also,” she says. “The funny thing is, I didn't even think about reacting, I just did it on impulse.“I'm just grateful that I was there at the right time to be able to help.”Rowena encourages other parents she knows to learn first aid. “You never know when you’re going to need it,” she says. “Hopefully a story like mine makes people realise that this should be a priority.”
Learn first aid
Visit the British Red Cross first aid academy at The Baby Show to learn a range of first aid skills.
The British Red Cross First aid for baby and child course is available from £45 per person at venues around the UK.
Find out more here
Find out more about the free Baby and Child First Aid app here
Photo: Bob Collier