How to Help a Choking Infant

Man demonstrating first aid for choking on a dummy baby

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There's no substitute for proper training when it comes to saving an infant from choking. However, emergencies don't wait for training. Follow these steps for a choking infant under 1 year old.


Stay Safe

If you are not the baby's parent or sibling, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment, if available.

Quickly Assess the Infant

If the baby can't cough or cry, then he or she is probably choking. Have someone else call 911, and go to step 3. If no one is available to call 911, go to step 3 and try to help the baby for 2 minutes before stopping to call 911 yourself. If you think the baby is having an allergic reaction rather than choking on something, call 911 immediately. If the baby is able to cough or cry, then he or she is able to breathe. Call 911 and watch the baby closely. If the baby suddenly stops coughing or crying and can't seem to breathe, go to step 3.

When asking someone else to call 911, make sure you tell them why they are calling. If not, they may not tell the 911 dispatcher exactly what's going on. If the dispatcher knows the baby isn't breathing or responding, the dispatcher may be able to give you instructions to help.

Give 5 Blows to the Back

Lay the baby face-down on your arm. Hold the baby's head with your hand to keep his or her neck straight. The baby's legs should be straddling your arm near the elbow. Lean the baby down at an angle. The infant's head should be lower than his or her waist.

With the heel of your other hand, strike the baby between the shoulder blades 5 times.

Give 5 Chest Thrusts

Roll the baby from one arm to the other so that he or she is now laying face up. Keep the head cradled in your hand and the legs straddling your arm. Hold the baby at an angle with his or her head low and give 5 chest thrusts. Use two fingers on the breastbone right between the nipples. Push down about an inch 5 times.

Look in the Baby's Mouth

If you see something in the baby's mouth, pull it out. Otherwise, keep your fingers out of the baby's mouth and repeat back blows and chest thrusts. Keep doing it until the baby coughs up the object. If the baby becomes unconscious, begin infant CPR.

After 2 minutes of trying to dislodge the object, call 911 and keep trying.​

Get Trained

Taking a CPR class is one of the most important things a parent can do to keep his or her child safe. One of the things you'll learn in class is how to save a choking infant. Don't do online courses if you're serious about learning. Nothing beats practice with a simulated patient in your hands and an instructor to correct your mistakes.

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