What to do when a baby is choking

It can be very scary when a baby starts choking. Many caregivers don’t know how to dislodge an item since the method is different from what we use on adults.

This video breaks the process down into simple steps. Watch the video to visualize what to do if your baby chokes, then read the text below for more detail. If you have questions about the method, ask your health care provider for advice.

When a baby is choking and still responsive…

Use back slaps and chest thrusts for choking relief in an infant. Do not use abdominal thrusts.

Step 1: Kneel or sit with the infant in your lap
Step 2: If easy to do, remove clothing from the infant’s chest.
Step 3: Hold the infant face down, resting on your forearm with his or her head slightly lower than the chest. Support the infant’s head and jaw with your hand. Take care to avoid compressing the soft tissues of the infant’s throat. Rest your forearm on your lap or thigh to support the infant.
Step 4: Deliver up to 5 back slaps forcefully between the infant’s shoulder blades, using the heel of your hand. Deliver each slap with sufficient force to attempt to dislodge the foreign body.
Step 5: After delivering up to 5 back slaps, place your free hand on the infant’s back, supporting the back of the infant’s head with the palm of your hand. The infant will be adequately cradled between your 2 forearms, with the palm of one hand supporting the face and jaw, while the palm of the other hand supports the back of the infant’s head.
Step 6: Turn he infant in one motion while carefully supporting the head and neck. Hold the infant faceup, with your forearm resting on your thigh. Keep the infant’s head lower than the trunk.
Step 7: Provide up to five quick downward chest thrusts in the middle of the chest, over the lower half of the breastbone (same location as for chest compression during CPR). Deliver chest thrusts at a rate of about 1 per second, each with the intention of creating enough force to dislodge the foreign body.
Step 8: repeat the sequence of up to 5 black slaps and up to 5 chest thrusts until the object is removed, or the baby becomes unresponsive

When a baby is unresponsive…

Step 1: Shout for help. If someone responds, send that person to call 9-1-1 and activate the emergency response system. Place the infant faceup on a firm, flat surface.
Step 2: Begin CPR, starting with compressions. Each time you open the airway, look for the object in the back of the throat. If you see an object and can easily remove it, remove it. Note that you do not check for a pulse before beginning CPR.
Step 3: If you are alone, take a short break from CPR after two minutes to call 9-1-1 and activate the emergency response system (if no one has already done so)
Step 4: Each time you open the airway to give breaths, open the baby’s mouth wide and look for the object. If you see an object that can easily be removed, remove it with your fingers. If you do not see an object, continue CPR.

Keep in mind:
Sometimes the choking baby may already be unresponsive when you first encounter them. In this situation, you probably will not know that their airway is blocked by a foreign body. Remember to call 9-1-1, and start high-quality CPR.

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