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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 an item is small enough to fit through a toilet roll tube, then it is small enough to choke your baby.

If your baby is choking, you may notice that:

  • they appear to be 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
  • their may be lots of spit (saliva) but no sound

Call 999 or 112 immediately if your baby is choking, 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.

Give 5 back blows using the heel of your hand between your baby’s shoulders
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 don't 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. Repeat up to 5 times. 

Give 5 chest thrusts by finding their breast bone
Baby chest thrust

If this does not work call 999 or 112 for emergency help, if you have not already done so.

Step 3 - call 999 or 112

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 baby

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.

Watch a short video from St John Ambulance on what to do if your baby is choking.

You can get training in basic first aid to babies and children from the following Irish organisations:

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Page last reviewed: 16/05/2019
Next review due: 16/05/2022