gagging versus choking

I receive a lot of questions on a daily basis concerning gagging and choking. People often seem shocked to see that Lillian is eating cherry tomatoes, apples, grapes and steak at only 10 months old.

At what age can you introduce grapes? How will my baby chew without teeth? Is it safe to give my baby raw vegetables? Do you have to peel the skin off of fruit? Can you give a baby bread that has not been toasted? These are all very common concerns when starting blw.

It is important to remember that gagging is completely normal. Gagging is actually a good thing! When a baby gags this means that they are actually learning how to properly manage the food they are putting into their mouth and how to eat safely. Gagging prevents a baby from choking on food that is not ready to be swallowed. Babies have a very sensitive gag reflex and this allows them to learn how much food they can handle in their mouth at once, and how much they need to chew their food before it can be swallowed.

You should NEVER put food into your babies mouth as it is important that they learn how to control each piece of food that they eat on their own. If a baby starts to gag, you should let them work the food out on their own. You should never pull food out of your babies mouth, as this is not allowing them to learn how to effectively manage and control the food that they are chewing.

Gagging is NOT the same as choking. Choking is a total blockage to baby's airway and help should be provided in order to remove the blockage.

It is assumed that choking occurs more often with baby-led weaning than with traditional weaning, but this is actually not the case! Whether you are planning to do blw or traditional weaning, you should definitely take a standard first-air and CPR course. You will feel much more comfortable starting blw if you know what to do in a situation in which choking has occurred.

The following chart is very helpful! 

Now, to answer some of your frequently asked questions. 

**Remember to consult your doctor and/or paediatrician if you have any concerns with choking, how to prepare food for your baby, etc. 

At what age can you introduce grapes?

Grapes can be introduced right away at 6 months of age, although you must remember to cut grapes appropriately before they are given to your baby. Grapes should be cut in half or in quarters lengthwise! 

You should also half or squish blueberries, half or quarter cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, hotdogs, string cheese or any other foods that could cause a blockage. Many of you have asked about peas & corn; they are smaller than the windpipe and are not considered choking hazards. 

How will my baby chew without teeth?

Did you know that babies do not need teeth to chew!? Whether or not your baby has no teeth or 6 teeth, they can all be offered the same foods (including meat!) Molars are the teeth we use for chewing, and the average baby does not get their molars until approximately 1-3 years of age. 

Most babies enjoy sucking on meat when they first start blw, and believe it or not, they are actually getting all the nutrients they need from the meat this way. Once baby becomes more comfortable managing meat, they will be tearing off pieces in no time (with or without teeth!) 

Is it safe to give my baby raw vegetables? Do I have to peel the skin off of fruit?

YES it is safe to give you baby raw vegetables! Lillian loves chomping on raw cucumber, peppers, broccoli and snap peas! Frozen cucumber slices work wonders with a teething baby!

NO you do not have to peel the skin off of fruit. Babies will learn how to eat the flesh off the fruit and leave the skin if they do not feel comfortable eating it. Lillian tends to spit out the skin from tomatoes and plums! But yes, it is completely safe to leave the skin on fruit!

Can I give my baby bread that has not been toasted?

YES you can give your baby bread! When Lillian started eating bread, I was very nervous as it can get quite clumpy and sticky. The bread would often get stuck on the roof of her mouth. I had to remind myself to stay calm and let Lillian work the bread out on her own. I would offer her sips of water, and that seemed to help the bread that was stuck in her mouth. We have never had a choking scare with bread, or any food for that matter. With practice, Lillian has mastered chewing and eating bread! Practice makes perfect! 

I hope this has helped and answered some of your questions!
The Baby-Led Weaning book by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett has some excellent tips and information on gagging & choking. 


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