Mum of nine-month-old who died after choking at nursery didn’t want to ‘appear pushy’ by asking staff to cut up his food

The parents of the nine-month-old are now raising awareness to help parents know what to do when children are choking

Close up of a baby's lunch plate
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The mother of a nine-month-old who died after choking at nursery has revealed that she didn’t ask the staff to cut up his food despite previously stating it should be pureed as she didn't want to ‘appear pushy.’ 

An inquest into the death of nine-month-old Oliver Steeper who passed away six days after he choked on food at the Jelly Beans Day Nursery in Ashford, Kent, has heard that his mother didn't want to appear 'pushy' by reminding nursery staff to blend his food. 

Zoe Steeper had assumed that the staff would blend her son's food as he 'only had two front teeth' and 'nobody at the nursery had sought her permission to start giving Oliver non-pureed food.' She told the inquest, “We assumed that food would be pureed. He wasn’t able to chew. That made us extra cautious.”

But when she noticed pineapple in her son’s vomit when he was sick just days before the incident, she realised that was not the case despite, she said, nursery workers assuring her that Oliver's food would be pureed at nursery just like she did for him at home. 

The mother revealed that, following the incident, she wanted to contact the nursery to remind them that he shouldn't be eating solid foods but held off doing do as she didn't want the staff to think that she was "being pushy."

She added that, when she tried to speak with staff members during a morning drop-off she gave up as she felt 'rushed.' 

She said, “I felt rushed because I was dropping him off late. The lady I gave him to seemed rushed. Another child was holding her leg.”

Unfortunately, that same day, Zoe got a call from the nursery who said that Oliver had been “involved in an accident and had choked on his lunch”. She arrived at the nursery in time to join her son as he was rushed to the William Harvey Hospital. He was then transferred to Evelina Children’s Hospital in London where brain scans showed he wouldn't survive. Oliver died six days later. 

Following his death, Kent Police investigated the incident but took no further action against the nursery of its staff. However, Ofsted suspended their license over 'serious safeguarding concerns' in the wake of Oliver's death. More details about the incident are set to be revealed as the two-week inquest continues.

Oliver's parents have now set up The Oliver Steeper Foundation and distribute LifeVacs, non-powered, non-invasive, portable suction devices used to clear upper airway obstructions when people are choking.  

If you are worried about you child choking, according to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there are certain foods that could put your child at a higher risk of choking than others. These include; 

  • Cooked or raw whole corn kernels
  • Uncut cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Pieces of hard raw vegetables or fruit, such as raw carrots or apples
  • Whole pieces of canned fruit
  • Uncut grapes, berries, cherries, or melon balls
  • Uncooked dried vegetables or fruit, such as raisins
  • Whole or chopped nuts and seeds
  • Chunks or spoonfuls of nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter
  • Tough or large chunks of meat
  • Hot dogs, meat sticks, or sausages
  • Large chunks of cheese, especially string cheese
  • Bones in meat or fish
  • Whole beans
  • Cookies or granola bars
  • Potato or corn chips, pretzels, popcorn, or similar snack foods
  • Crackers or breads with seeds, nut pieces, or whole grain kernels
  • Whole grain kernels of cooked barley, wheat, or other grains
  • Round or hard candy, jelly beans, caramels, gum drops, or gummy candies
  • Chewy fruit snacks
  • Chewing gum
  • Marshmallows

In other family news, this is what do to if your baby or child is choking. Plus, 'My baby gags on solid food' and 11 other common weaning worries Annabel Karmel, weaning expert, totally gets (and shares her top tips to put your mind at rest). And, this is how to start weaning - according to the experts

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.