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Choking in babies under 1 year

Your baby can choke on small bits of food, household items or small toys. They may put small objects in their mouth.

If your baby is choking, you may notice that:

  • they appear to be crying or coughing but no sound is coming out - this is sometimes called a silent cough
  • they are unable to cough
  • their face may be pale
  • their lips may be blue

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 immediately if:

  • your baby is not conscious or is unresponsive

If your baby is conscious but they are not coughing effectively, you will need to deliver first aid.

Step 1 - slap it out

Sit down. Hold your baby's face down on your knee. Make sure to support their head, jaw and neck. Their head should be lower than their body.

Give 5 back blows using the heel of your hand between your baby’s shoulders.

First aider demonstrating back thrust with an infant CPR dummy
Baby back thrust

If you can see the object, try to remove it. But never put your finger blindly into your baby's mouth if you do not see anything there. This is because you could end up pushing the object further in.

If this does not work, move on to step 2.

Step 2 - squeeze it out

Turn your baby over so they are lying face up along your thighs. Make sure you support their head and neck.

Give 5 chest thrusts by finding their breast bone. This is in the centre of their chest, in line with their armpits.

First aider demonstrating chest thrust with an infant CPR dummy
Baby chest thrust

Place 2 fingers in the middle of their chest and push sharply on the chest. Try and use an inward and upward motion if you can.

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 for emergency help if:

  • your baby is still unable to cough

Step 3 - call 112 or 999

Keep doing 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts. Do this until the object pops out, the ambulance arrives or your baby becomes unresponsive.


If your baby becomes unresponsive, you will need to begin CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation).

Learn how to give CPR to your child

The emergency phone operator will also guide you through how to give CPR.

If during CPR you see the object, remove it with your fingers. Do not place your fingers into your baby's mouth if you cannot see the object.

If the object does come out, you should still get medical help afterwards. This is in case part of the object remains or your child has been injured during the choking or first aid.

Baby and child first aid training

St John Ambulance provides information and courses about what to do if a baby or small child is choking.

Training in how to give basic first aid to babies and children is offered by the following organisations:

Irish Red Cross
Phone: 01 642 4600

Order of Malta Ireland
Phone: 01 643 0000

St John Ambulance Ireland
Phone: 01 668 8077

First aid apps

The St John Ambulance Ireland App is a free app for your phone.

CPR training

The Irish Heart Foundation offers certified training in CPR.

Learn more about CPR courses for the general public -

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2022
Next review due: 14 October 2025