Introducing solids to your baby can be fun and messy! It can also be a bit stressful since there is a risk of choking as they learn to move solids around in their mouth and eventually swallow them. There are typically two ways of introducing solids – purees or baby-led feeding, or a combination of both. The ways to avoid choking are the same no matter how you choose to feed your baby.
Make sure they are ready: Sometimes you might be ready before baby is, or sometimes physicians or family members suggest starting solids as early at 4 months old. Typically most babies are ready to start solids between 4 – 6 months of age, but age is only one factor of readiness. In addition to being over 4 months old, your baby must be able to sit independently – so not sitting with support like a chair. This shows they have the neck control and trunk strength to tolerate solids. The baby also needs to lose the Tongue Thrust reflex (the one that makes them push any food right back out of their mouth). If they still have it, it’s probably still too early. And finally, they should be showing interest in the foods you’re eating! You need to look for all of these signs to show that baby is ready for solids.
Know your choking hazards: Some foods are a much higher choking hazard than others. Some of the top ones are grapes, nuts, hot dogs, blueberries, peanut butter, and hard fruit and veggies like apples and carrots. These foods should only be introduced in a safe way and when age-appropriate.
Prep your food: When starting solids, start with small amounts and be safe. Purees are fine as a starter food, especially if your baby is in the younger age group. They need to be sitting in a proper high chair, not on someone’s laps, and parents need to monitor any feeding. Initially, the amount they will take will be small. Until they are 8 months old, solids will only take up 15% of their daily calories, so don’t feel the need to force more solids before they’re ready.
If doing purees start with a very smooth puree, when your baby is able to take this in and swallow it easily then they’re able to move to a thicker texture. Purees are only temporary, and by 10 – 12 months baby should be having cut-up versions of their parent’s dinner.
For Baby Led Feeding all foods should be cut, cooked, and prepped to ensure they are safe for baby. For example, if feeding sweet potato – cut them into thick French fry shapes about 2 fingers adult long and 2 fingers wide and steam bake until soft. For circular items like cucumbers and banana, cut them lengthwise into quarters first. Small foods like blueberries should be avoided until they’re older, closer to 8 months with a pincer grasp, and then only offered mashed or cut in quarters
Be Prepared: Finally, make sure you are ready because your baby may gag and this is 100% normal. Baby’s gag reflex is much closer to the tip of their tongue than adults and this is to protect their small airways. Knowing the difference between a choke and a gag is important. Gagging looks like a red face, watery eyes, coughing, crying, and maybe vomiting. Choking is usually silent, no coughing or crying, a blank or panicked look, and the baby may turn blue. It is important to be prepared for an emergency if your baby does choke, especially if you choose Baby Led Feeding.
Reach out to your local Mama Coach for a virtual or in-person CPR and Choking session to help you feel better prepared for this journey!