BLW – starting out and staying calm! Gagging and Choking

Carrots are pretty damn terrifying!

It’s totally normal to have worries over weaning your baby onto solid food – after all, for their entire lives so far, they have been dependent only on milk – a reliable food source, easy to swallow and digest. 

I think any parent’s worry with weaning is to do with choking. Before beginning BLW, I would really recommend taking a baby first aid course, to educate yourself on what to do in the event of your baby choking. Choking was a very real fear for me, and I felt better equipped to deal with choking incidents after we learnt how to manage it. 

That said, I think it’s important to state that there is a massive, massive difference between choking and gagging. Your baby is likely to gag. In the early days, Squid gagged A LOT. Sometimes, he gagged so much that he was sick. But this phase passed quickly. See this table: 

I think the little saying ‘loud and red, let them go ahead, silent and blue, they need help from you’ is a really helpful one – it reminds you that gagging is normal! Not only that, but gagging is actually an important phase with BLW – it is your baby’s way of understanding how far back in their mouths they can put food before their gag reflex is triggered – this encourages them to chew food too. As time goes on, the gag reflex moves further back in their mouths, and incidents of gagging are reduced. At 9 months, Squid rarely gags – only when he shoves too much food in at once! 

Choking is actually pretty rare with BLW, but again, a baby first aid course will help quell any fears of choking, as you will be equipped to deal with it if it ever happened. 

My top tips for dealing with gagging and choking are:

  • Stay calm. If your baby is gagging, give them time to work it out. If they see you panicking, they are more likely to start choking! (Obviously if they are choking (see table above) act immediately, do not wait). 
  • Don’t rush in to slap your baby on the back when they gag – again, it is best to let them work it out. Imagine if every time you took a bite of food and pushed it to the back of your mouth, someone slapped you on the back – you probably wouldn’t want to eat any more!
  • Cut your baby’s food into manageable pieces – ‘chip shaped’ works best. This means that there is a ‘handle’ for them to grip, and the food is not too wide that it might block their wind pipe. 
  • Don’t give foods like cherry tomatoes, grapes, cherries, blueberries etc whole – they are the perfect width to block your baby’s wind pipe. Instead, slice them into 4s – this size will also help your baby  to develop their pincer grip! 
  • Never leave your baby unattended whilst eating. If your baby did need help due to choking, you would need to be able to react quickly. 
  • Make sure your baby is sitting upright, not slouched. This means they need to be sitting either on your knee, or in a suitable highchair, (on the most upright setting if you have a fancy pants reclining one), NOT in a bouncy chair or reclined pram. If your baby is reclined, they are more likely to choke as the food gravitates to the back of their throat. 

So, where do you start? We started with a selection of foods: carrots, brocolli, banana, toast, sweet potato and cauliflower. Squid was pretty horrified by the experience and we got some seriously hilarious photos. The next day, he tucked into spag bol, a now a firm favourite!

From the get-go, we have offered Squid 3 meals a day, whenever he is awake and in a good mood. There is no rule which says to start with breakfast, and then gradually add more meals and foods in with BLW. Go at a pace that you feel comfortable with. Don’t feel guilty if you notice it’s 2pm and you’ve not offered your 7 month old lunch let alone breakfast! (This still happens sometimes at 9 months. Mum of the year right here.)

Remember – milk forms their main source of nutrition until they turn 1 year old, food is just complimentary to milk – milk offers all they really need. So as long as you are confusing to offer milk feeds on demand, don’t get hung up on how much food you are offering. Let me tell you, Squid did not get to be 29lb 3oz at 8 months old by eating (throwing) weetabix for breakfast everyday! Boob milk made him that big!

A 7 month old Squid enjoying spag bol!

So: take a baby first aid course, learn the differences between gagging and choking, have fun and RELAX. Your baby will pick up on your anxieties if you are on edge. Meal times should be enjoyable, so set a good example and sit around the table and all eat together. You don’t need to stare at your baby whilst they are eating, imagine how off-putting that would be! Just enjoy your own meal, talk about the food you’re eating, and at some point, your baby will begin to experiment by playing, feeling, smelling, throwing, licking, tasting, sucking, chewing and maybe even swallowing the food you offer! 

St John’s Ambulance have a great video on what to do in the event of your baby choking. Check it out here:

Were you worried about gagging or choking before you started weaning your baby?

Tomorrow’s post will be about BLW ‘essentials’ – what you really need! 

Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @squidmamma for daily baby/life updates! 

Squidmamma x 


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