All babies choke a little as they get used to eating lumpy foods, just as they fall when they’re learning to walk. The ten most common foods associated with choking in children under the age of five are:
- hot dogs
- round candy
- meat chunks/ slices
- raw carrot slices
- peanut butter
- apple chunks
You can make some of these foods safer by cutting them small enough (grapes, apples, meat), or breaking them up. Peanut butter is safer spread on bread than eaten off a spoon (or finger). Some of these foods are best avoided altogether (hot dogs, hard round candy) because there’s no way to make them safe and they’re not good for children anyhow.
Nine times out of ten, babies who are choking easily bring the food up or down themselves and don’t need any help at all. If they can’t get it up or down right away, pull the food out with your fingers if you can see it. If you can’t see it, put the baby over your lap, with her head down and her bottom up. Hit her firmly between the shoulder blades a couple of times with the palm of your hand. This virtually always solves the problem, and she’s ready to go back to her meal. See page XXX for emergency treatment of choking.
Some parents worry so much about what to do if their baby chokes that they delay giving finger foods and lumpy foods until way after the baby is old enough for them. The problem is not caused by young children’s inability to chew and swallow. It’s the result of the sudden deep inhalation that a child takes when he laughs, giggles, cries, or is surprised. The inhalation can send food from the mouth directly into a lung, blocking off the lung or causing it to collapse.
For safety, and because eating should be a social activity, children should eat sitting at a table together with a parent or responsible adult. Make mealtime relaxed and pleasant. Show your child how to chew well. And cut burgers, veggie hot dogs, grapes, and similar foods into smaller pieces.