What do to if your baby or child is choking

If your baby or child was choking would you know what to do? Read the life-saving first aid advice with Clive James, training officer at St John Ambulance

How to stop a child or baby choking
(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

If you found your baby or child choking, would you have the first aid knowledge to help them?

Babies and children will naturally put things in their mouths and it's difficult to spot every choking hazard out there.

Food, beads, marbles, coins and broken bits of children's toys could all fit in a baby or child's airway and no matter how careful you are, choking is always a scary possibility.

But would you know what to do if you found your baby or child choking? Read the life-saving paediatric first aid advice below, supported by Clive James, training officer at St John Ambulance, to make sure you're prepared if you ever find yourself in that position.

How to stop a baby from choking

1. If your child is younger than one, encourage them to cough the object out themselves. If you can see the object in their mouth, try to remove it but take care not to push it further in.

2. If your baby is still silent or not breathing properly, sit down, turn them on their front and lay them face down on your thigh. At the same time, make sure their head and neck is still supported.

Using the heel of one hand, hit them on the back in between the shoulder blades with five back blows. In between each back blow check to see if the object has been coughed up.

3. If your baby is still choking, turn them on their front, with them still slightly downwards but keeping their head supported.

Using two fingertips placed on the breastbone, one finger's breadth below the nipple line, push down one third the depth of the chest, give five short, sharp chest thrusts. Like with the back blows, check in between each chest thrust if your baby has coughed up the object.

4. If the object is still lodged, using the speaker phone on your mobile phone call 999 or 112 for emergency help, but continue to alternate between the back blows and chest thrusts. If your phone is elsewhere, take the baby with you to make the call. If the baby becomes unresponsive, begin CPR.

Don't: Try and make your baby sick or feel around blindly with your fingers. This could push the object further down the airways and make it harder to remove. Unless the object is right at the front of the mouth, and is easy to remove, don't search for the object that's making them choke.

How to stop a child from choking

1. Just like if a baby was choking, encourage your child to cough up the object first. If your child is too big to lie on your lap, or is big enough to stand, put them in a forward leaning position and give them five back blows.

2. Then begin abdominal thrusts. Either standing or kneeling behind your child, place your fist in between the bottom of their ribs and their belly button. Place your other hand over the top and pull sharply inwards and upwards. Again, check after each thrust if the object has been dislodged.

3. If this doesn't work, using the speaker phone on your mobile phone call 999 or 112 for emergency help, but continue to alternate between the back blows and abdominal thrusts

4. Carry on alternating between the back blows and abdominal thrusts until the ambulance arrives, or the child becomes unresponsive, in which case start CPR.

If the object has been dislodged, still seek medical help, as part of the object might still be in their airways, or they might have been hurt by the process.

How to prevent choking

To ensure your child has a reduced chance of choking, watch out for various foods that can get stuck in a child's throat.

According to the NHS, food is the number one risk for children when it comes to choking. They advise the following guidelines:

  • Adequately time the introduction of solid foods
  • Avoid food like grapes, popcorn, chunks of meat, cheese and boiled sweets
  • Supervise mealtimes, and try and stop your child from running or playing while eating
  • Cut food up into small, chewable pieces
  • Check toys for choking hazards
  • Take a CPR class

The first aid video every parent should watch

To help raise awareness, This Morning have released a first aid video, showing you what to do if you find your baby or child choking. The video demonstrating this lifesaving advice saved at least six children's lives shortly after being released.


Chelle Nichol, mum of seven-month-old Blake, appeared on This Morning to talk about how watching this video saved the life of her son.

When her 22-month-old daughter opened her mum's purse while Michelle was in the bathroom, Blake swallowed a 20p coin. Even though Michelle left the bathroom door open to make sure she could still watch her two children, it only took a second for Blake to swallow the coin.

'I heard him choking on the 20p coin so I came running through and there was money scattered everywhere and my first instinct was I did freeze. But then I thought "Ok get into action" and then I remembered obviously what doctor Ranj had said on the Facebook post.

'I went over and I saw the 20p lodged in the back of his throat and then I just went straight into the back slap and then obviously it managed to dislodge straight away so we very very lucky.'

Lucy Gornall
Health & Fitness writer

Freelance writer Lucy Gornall is the former health and fitness editor for various women’s magazines including Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly and Chat. She lives and breathes all things fitness.