Infant Choking – How to Save a Life

Infant Choking – How to Save a Life

It’s something you never want to consider or witness – and hopefully you will never have to put these skills into practice – but knowing what to do if your baby is choking is essential for all parents and could very well save their life.

Prevention is always better than cure, so firstly reduce all choking risks, such as removing hazardous packaging from infants, checking the age suitability of toys, keeping small items out of reach, and serving age-appropriate foods cut into small pieces.

If you are concerned your child may be choking, signs and symptoms to look out for include clutching the throat; coughing, wheezing or gagging; difficulty in breathing, speaking or swallowing; having blue lips, face, earlobes or fingernails; and loss of consciousness. If you have any concerns, it is essential you follow these steps:

For choking infants (under 1 year) 1. Immediately call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Stay on the phone.

  1. Place the infant with their head downwards on your forearm, supporting the head and shoulders on your hand.

  2. Hold the infant’s mouth open with your fingers.

  3. Give up to 5 sharp blows to the back between the shoulders with the heel of one hand, checking if the blockage has been removed after each blow. If the blockage has come loose or been removed, turn the infant into the recovery position and remove any object that may have come loose with your little finger.

  4. If the blockage has not been removed after 5 back blows, place the infant on their back on a firm surface. Place 2 fingers on the lower half of the sternum and give up to 5 chest thrusts, checking if the blockage has been removed after each thrust. Support the infant’s head with the other hand.

  5. If the blockage has not been removed after 5 thrusts, continue alternating 5 back blows with 5 chest thrusts until medical aid arrives.

  6. If the infant becomes unconscious, start CPR.

While having to deal with this situation is every parent and caregiver’s worst nightmare, not knowing how to help is even worse. You can never be too prepared or educated, so booking into first aid training is a must – we recommend this too for anyone that will be caring for the children, from parents and caregivers to grandparents and babysitters – accidents can happen at any time and you want to feel confident in dealing with such situations.

St John SA offers both public and on-site Caring For Kids First Aid Courses. For more information, or to book, visit or call 1300 78 5646. Additional First Aid fact sheets can be downloaded here:

Find out more about St John SA at

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.