In my years of teaching classes on introducing solids with baby-led weaning I always go around the room and ask everyone to introduce themselves and to share what their biggest concern they’re hoping to learn about. Number one worry, far and away, is a fear of choking.
It just seems scary to give a tiny baby actual pieces of food, doesn’t it? Possibly even dangerous! So why choose baby-led weaning to start if they could choke?
As I cover in my class, there are a few parts to this concern.
First is the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a natural reflex that actually prevents choking because babies are designed to survive even first-time parents. Choking is the obstruction of the airway by (in this case) a piece of food. Gagging is scary, but not dangerous; choking is to be avoided if possible.
If you haven’t taken an infant CPR class, you may feel better taking one now. You can also do a little YouTube self-study which is better than nothing. I cover this more in my introducing solids course, but choking is silent while gagging is not. My mantra is, “If they’re coughing, they’re breathing.”
Is There an Increased Risk of Choking with Baby-Led Weaning?
A 2016 study in New Zealand followed over 200 babies as they started solids and found that 35% of the babies in the whole study had a choking incident during the period they observed. The percentage was across groups who started with purees or finger foods, because the issue was that a high percentage of the babies were offered foods that were choking hazards.
The best ways to prevent choking during baby-led weaning are:
- wait until baby is physically ready to start solids, and
- offer foods that are developmentally appropriate for your child
Babies can’t read calendars, so it’s important to watch their motor development to ensure they’re able to eat food and maintain their posture to prevent choking during baby-led weaning.
As I mentioned, not feeding your baby choking hazards significantly reduces the risks! In the study I mentioned above, over a third of the choking incidents reported were due to raw apples. Learn from those parents’ mistakes!
For more in-depth information, my Introducing Solids class covers the when, why, and how of starting foods with your baby, including breastfeeding and allergens.
Hundreds of parents have felt more confident and informed while approaching solid foods with their babies. You can, too!