How to Help a Choking Infant

Man demonstrating first aid for choking on a dummy baby

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Babies under 1 year old can choke when an object like food or a toy becomes stuck in their throat, blocking their airway. A choking baby won’t be able to cry or cough loudly. You may notice a high-pitched sound when trying to inhale, difficulty breathing as the ribs and chest pull inward, weak or ineffective coughing, or a bluish tint to the skin. To help a choking baby, call 9-1-1 and begin the first-aid steps below for a choking infant under 12 months old.

Before starting first-aid steps, be sure to assess the situation. Do not interfere if your baby is coughing or crying strongly. That means that their airway isn’t completely blocked, and they may be able to dislodge the object on their own. If your baby can’t breathe, cough, or cry, call 9-1-1 and begin the following steps.

Give 5 Back Blows

Lay your baby face down along your forearm, using your thigh or lap to support them. Hold their chest in your hand and jaw with your fingers. Your baby’s head should be pointed downward, lower than their body. With the heel of your free hand, give five quick, forceful blows between your baby’s shoulder blades.

Give 5 Chest Thrusts

If the object doesn’t come out after the five back blows, turn your baby face-up using your thigh or lap for support. Hold the back of their head, which should again be angled downward, lower than their body. Place two of three of your fingers in the center of your baby’s chest just below the nipple line. Give five quick thrusts downward, compressing the breastbone about 1 ½ inches.

Continue Back Blows and Chest Thrusts

If the object still hasn’t come out, continue doing sets of five back blows followed by five chest thrusts until one of the following happens:

  • The object is forced out.
  • The infant can cough forcefully, cry, or breathe.
  • The infant becomes unconscious.

Perform Infant CPR if Needed

Start CPR only if your baby becomes unconscious. Signs include being unresponsive, turning blue, and not breathing. Call 9-1-1 if you haven’t already done so. Then follow these steps:

Give 2 Rescue Breaths

Lower your baby onto a firm, flat surface. Tilt the baby’s head back and lift the chin up. Cover the baby’s nose and mouth with your mouth to make a complete seal. Give one rescue breath and look to see if the chest rises. If it doesn't rise, retilt the baby's head, and give another rescue breath. If the chest doesn’t rise, begin 30 chest compressions.

Give 30 Chest Compressions

Place two fingers in in the center of your baby’s chest just below the nipple line and give 30 chest compressions about 1 ½ inches deep. Push fast, at least 100 compressions per minute.

Try to Remove the Object

Look for the object that your baby choked on and remove it if you see it.

Give 2 More Rescue Breaths

Do two more rescue breaths by tilting the baby’s head back, lifting the chin up, and covering the baby’s nose and mouth with your mouth to make a complete seal. Both breaths should be one second each. If the chest doesn’t rise, repeat the 30 chest compressions, look for the object and give two more rescue breaths. If the chest clearly rises, check for breathing. If your baby is still not breathing and unconscious, continue CPR.

Common Causes of Infant Choking

Some common choking hazards for babies include balloons, buttons, coins, and small toys. Foods that are commonly choking hazards include:

  • Pieces of raw vegetables or hard fruits
  • Grapes (should be cut in quarters)
  • Whole hot dogs (should be cut lengthwise before dicing)
  • Untoasted white bread
  • Dried fruit like raisins
  • Nuts
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Marshmallows
  • Popcorn
  • Candy

If you have any questions about the foods that you can feed your baby, ask your pediatrician.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Choking – infant under 1 year. MedlinePlus. Updated January 12, 2019. 

  2. American Red Cross. Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED

  3. Nemours Foundation. Finger Foods for Babies. KidsHealth. Updated June 2018.

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