What to do if a Baby Chokes

Monday , 16, December 2019 14 Comments

happy baby

Monday afternoon, I did something that I’m not proud of.  I panicked. I am not a worrier, I don’t overreact to situations, and I pride myself on my ability to remain calm in emergencies.  Until yesterday, I would have said that one of my defining traits was my level headed nature in otherwise disastrous situations. So, what could have thrown me off of my square so completely? I’ll tell you: an olive.  A black, slippery, evil deathfruit. Slick and seemingly innocuous, this tiny thing almost destroyed my entire world.

black olive`

Sunday night, I got home from a meeting, and I was hungry.  It was too late to eat a meal, and I was too tired to heat anything up for myself.  So instead of cooking, I polished off an open can of kalamata olives that I found in the refrigerator.  I went to bed, not knowing that I had dropped one on the kitchen floor.

The next day, my younger boy, Rowan, was crawling around the house and found it. It only took him a second to decide to pop it into his mouth, whereupon he immediately choked on it. He didn’t make a sound. There was no gagging, no fussing, no indication whatsoever that his little life could end in about two minutes.

I was standing in the kitchen making breakfast for his older brother and me. I noticed that Rowan was making an awkward movement with his head, and it looked like he was trying to swallow something.  I picked him up and looked at him. Instead of the typical bashful smile that has become his trademark, I sensed a level of panic in his eyes that sends a chill down my spine even now as I recall it. I tried to look in his mouth to see if there was anything there, but I saw nothing.  I started patting his back, which must have just barely dislodged the olive enough for him to make a gagging sound. I grabbed my phone and turned the flashlight on and looked into his mouth again, and there it was: the tail end of a shiny black olive, sticking out of my baby’s throat.


He was panicking, and trying to cry. Every time he almost got the olive out, it allowed just enough room for him to gasp and choke on it again. He was fighting me as I tried, with no success, to hook my finger around it. This process went on for what seemed like an hour. He would almost get it out, but the lack of air would prevail, causing him to suck it back down his throat, as his demand for oxygen increased.  I felt so helpless. I was turning him upside down, slamming his back with my other hand, saying, “Ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck.” His brother was scared, I was scared, and Rowan was scared. I was on the brink of tears. All I could think was, “Jesus, please don’t let my baby die.”  As an individual who tends toward “all or nothing” thinking, in my mind I was all the way to “How am I going to explain to my wife that I let our son choke to death while you were at work?”  At this point, I literally held him upside down by his leg and slammed his back, hard.

Then, he let out a loud gasp and started screaming at the top of his lungs. He had swallowed the olive. I turned him rightfather holding his son

side up and confirmed that his airway was clear (which was considerably easier without my finger in his mouth). I just held him and we both cried.

It occurred to me that I had no idea what to do for a choking infant. So, I did some research to find out what I should have done. Spoiler alert: none of the correct procedures involve anything I did.  Read on to discover what you should do when your little one gets into trouble:

The following steps are taken from Medlineplus.gov. You can read the article here.

DO NOT perform these steps if the infant is coughing hard or has a strong cry.  Strong coughs and cries can help push         the object out of the airway (and indicate that your baby isn’t choking yet)

If your child is not coughing forcefully or does not have a strong cry, follow these steps:


  •         Lay the infant face down, along your forearm. Use your thigh or lap for support. Hold the infant’s chest in your hand and the jaw with your fingers. Point the infant’s head downward, lower than the body.
  •         Give up to 5 quick, forceful blows between the infant’s shoulder blades. Use the palm of your free hand.

If the object does not come out of the airway after 5 blows:

  •         Turn the infant face-up. Use your thigh or lap for support. Support the head.
  •         Place 2 fingers on the middle of the breastbone just below the nipples.
  •         Give up to 5 quick thrusts down, compressing the chest one third to one half the depth of the chest.
  •         Continue 5 back blows followed by 5 chest thrusts until the object is dislodged or the infant loses alertness         (becomes unconscious).


If the child becomes unresponsive, stops breathing, or turns blue:

  •         Shout for help.
  •         Give infant CPR. Call 911 after 1 minute of CPR.
  •         If you can see the object blocking the airway, try to remove it with your finger. Try to remove an object only if you can         see it.



I couldn’t help but notice that none of these steps include turning your child upside down, hanging them from one hand, shouting obsecinities over and over again, and beating their back. For all I know, I may have even made things worse. Fortunately, my son was able to clear the obstruction on his own, but it could have easily gone a different way.  And if it had, it would have been entirely my fault. I would never have been able to forgive myself.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

-Until next time, fellow fathers,



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14 thoughts on “ : What to do if a Baby Chokes”
  • Indra W says:

    It is a quite simple maneuver. Yet many people are not so accustomed to the procedure. Learning how to act and do the procedure is indeed valuable for parents with babies.

    I wonder if there is a certain caution or rule when delivering CPR to an infant. I think the force being used will be different from CPR to adults. If we can see a video of it would be great.

  • PeterMinea says:

    Hey Tom!

    Thank God Rowan is all right now! Your hard pat on the back saved him. That accident happened quickly, but you managed this situation heroically! And now you know (and also let us know) about the good techniques for saving an infant from choking.

    Good advice from all parents, everyone may face such dangerous situations. And I guess that the Heimlich maneuver is not that indicated for little kids.

    All the best to your whole family and have good days!

    Kind regards, Peter

    • Tom says:

      The Heimlich maneuver should only be used as a last resort, even in adults, as it can fracture ribs and do more damage to internal organs. 

          In infants, you should only do what is outlined in the steps in my article!

      Thanks for the comment!


  • Antonio says:

    Hi Tom

    It sounds like you have been through a nightmare. You did not know what to do at that moment and you tried your best, so do not be too hard on yourself. You have not been in the situation before and you was caught by surprise. Most parents would have tried what you have done, but you did the next best thing by going to research what to do. Next time you will be aware and can act more quickly. You have brought up an important subject and I feel most parents will benefit from it. Do you think that it is important to have a very clean floor with a young child to prevent them putting things in their mouths?

    Thank you for an interesting topic.


    • Tom says:


          It was a terrifying experience.  It occurred to me that I had no idea what to do for a choking infant, and it could have cost my son his life, my firstborn his baby brother, and my wife and my second son. That’s why I decided to share this experience with any other fathers out there; so as to prevent them from feeling so helpless in the same situation.

          As to your question about the importance of a clean floor: Ideally, it wouldn’t have happened at all. We try to keep it very clean, but with a two year old running around the house and making messes, it’s an ideal that we’re constantly striving for, but never attaining. Thanks for the comment!


  • Phil says:

    Wow, that was scary, so glad that olive came out!

    I have taken CPR, so I learned what to do with as adult, but I do not remember what they said about choking infants.

    So should we lay the child down on their stomach and give some slaps on the back until the child spits out the object?

    Did you take your child to the hospital after that?

    • Tom says:


          You should only provide CPR to an unconscious infant.  The procedure is different from adult CPR, too, so I’ll post a link to a YouTube video explaining how to provide infant CPR!

           I didn’t take Rowan to the hospital after that, because he was obviously fine (thank God for that)!  He wasn’t deprived of oxygen for long enough to cause any damage to his brain, or anything like that. I am beyond grateful that it turned out the way it did.

          Thanks for reading my article!


  • Alejandra says:

    Oh my, I couldn’t stop reading your article till the end! It’s good to know that everyone is OK!

    It can happens, to all moms, dads, and baby sitters! One little piece of food on the floor and the young ones can grab it and put in their mouths in one second!

    I thank you for sharing that moment and how you solved out and sharing the steps anyone in that situation should do, it will help many to know the steps to follow, and hope many read your article, it will help many to know in advance what to do.

    • Tom says:


          It happens so fast! That’s the frightening thing. It was over before I knew it, with a happy ending (thank God), but it could have easily gone another way. 

          Education is key to being a parent. \



  • Feji ben says:

    Hello there this is a very nice article I know it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me.as a lover of babies I think are the best steps to follow when a baby chokes not like when use to put a baby on our and rub he/her back and wait for the best.But I would like ask.dont you think it better to prevent the baby form getting close to these objects?

    • Tom says:


          It’s obviously a matter of prevention, but emergencies can and do happen even with the best planning.  That’s why I said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

      Thanks for the comment!


  • Amy says:

    Wow! That’s scary got me all emotional tears and all cause I to know that feeling all to well. My Tiffany also was literally choking on a piece of peppermint candy there was no sound except for her trying to breathe. A squeaking and gasping I’ll never forget.The scariest thing ever still brings tears to my eyes. We almost lost her also except she was 12. My mom had given it to her we were on our way to store from her house when she coughed and it went down it was stuck couldnt see it we all freaked out of course never ready. Probably never be ready for it ever but I beat her back so hard I know it hurt I beat it over and over I know it hurt but after what seemed like forever it came flying out. David and I never cried so hard feeling of happiness and sadness all in one once it was out. Held all the girls and just cried. And she still remembers how it feels to have that candy wedged in her throat. I think it still scares her. I know makes you think really realize alot of things opens up a light be thankful more than ever and thank god for what you have it could be gone in seconds just taken away. And although it may sound stupid I dont like them or anyone having hard candy around me. I’m sure itll effect me forever I’d say. I am so glad little Rowan is okay. Thank you hero daddy and the good lord. You are awesome keep up the good work Mistermommy!

    • Tom says:


      Thank God the worst didn’t happen! I know and love your family, and the world would be a colder, darker place without Tiffany. ❤️

      Love you and your girls so much,

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