Weaning 101: Choking vs gagging

Whether your little one is starting on pureed foods, finger foods or both, a common concern for parents is choking.

Babies have a very sensitive gag reflex which means gagging can be a regular occurrence, but it’s important to remember that it’s normal. In response, remain calm and allow your little one to respond naturally, and never try and fish the food out as this risks pushing it further in and causing a choking hazard.

The trouble lies in differentiating gagging from choking, which is far more serious, and the key is sound. Gagging means your little one will be coughing and spluttering, therefore air is getting through. When choking, the airway is blocked and no sound can be made, requiring immediate attention. For instructions and videos on how to respond to this, head to the Red Cross page here. There are also some excellent first aid courses that parents like to attend for peace of mind. 

As well as being prepared with the knowledge of what to do should choking occur, here are a few other important recommendations to reduce the risk of choking:

  • Avoid foods that are high choking risks, such as:
    • Whole nuts (which shouldn’t be given to your little one before 5 years) 
    • Whole small fruits, such as grapes and cherries – chop these up before serving
    • Dried fruits. Again, you can chop these up and serve
    • Raw, hard foods, such as carrots, which can easily be broken and form a choking hazard. Soften these by cooking before serving.
    • Remove tough skins, pips & seeds from foo
  • Wean when ready, not before 4-6months. If you’re unsure, ask your health care provider
  • Ensure your baby is always sat upright when eatin
  • Never leave your little one unsupervised whilst eating

This post was originally written for Mia & Ben

Weaning 101: Signs of readiness

UK guidelines recommend starting to wean when your baby is around 6 months old, and no earlier than 17 weeks old. At this age, your baby’s digestive system, kidneys and nerves (which all play an important role) should have developed enough for them to start with solid foods.

Every baby is different, so it’s important to be familiar with the signs of readiness that mean they’re developmentally ready. These include:

  • Sitting up and holding their head up with limited support
  • Showing interest in your food and reaching for it
  • Allowing you to put a spoon in their mouth without them spitting it back out

There are some other behaviours that can be mistaken for readiness, such as your baby being hungrier, putting their fist in their mouth, or waking in the night, but these are simply a sign of growth and teething.

As always, if you’re unsure, speak to your health care practitioner for help and advice.

Weaning 101: What is ‘weaning’?

Weaning is when your baby is ready to start on solid foods, usually at around 6 months of age and no earlier than 4 months. It’s sometimes called ‘complementary feeding’, as it complements breast milk or infant formula to provide additional nutrients and diversity.

Up until this point, milk has been nutritionally sufficient, as your baby has stores of the nutrients it doesn’t provide. However, these stores are getting used up, so it’s time to think about which foods can best provide these missing pieces… like iron!

As well as being nutritionally important, weaning is also important for your baby’s physical and mental development. Motor skills and coordination will develop with the introduction of solids (working out just how to get that food into their mouth!), and chewing uses the same muscles required for speech.

Whilst suckling and sucking are inherent behaviours, munching and chewing are actually learned behaviours that require exposure to different types of textures to develop!

Since munching is possible from around 4 months and chewing from around 7 months, the textures of foods introduced at these stages are different. It’s necessary to remember, however, that the ages advised are averages and every baby is different!

This post was originally written for Mia & Ben