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.
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.
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).
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:
First aid apps
The St John Ambulance Ireland App is a free app for your phone.
The Irish Heart Foundation offers certified training in CPR.