Is My Baby Going to Choke!? 4 Tips for Transitioning to Solid Food

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

The funniest thing about preparing to have a baby is the stuff you don’t Google like “How to clean bathtub after baby poops in it,” or “Why does baby hate socks,” or, in my case, “How to get over crippling fear of baby choking on solid food.”

Can you relate?

The Fear of Transitioning My Baby to Solid Food

Moving my son to purées was easy and fun. Seeing him try prunes, broccoli, and even my puréed shepherd’s pie for the first time was a blast. Then, when he got a few teeth and I noticed all of his baby friends were gnawing on baby puffs and bananas, well, I freaked out.

Babies can choke on food and it can be lethal. The statistics are out there. All of a sudden, my baby was just supposed to know to delicately nibble at a meatball instead of shoveling it in his mouth? What if he shoved a baby puff in his mouth and tried to swallow immediately? How would I help him?

The low point was one night when I actually pulled the banana out of his mouth because I was so scared he would choke. My sweet son full-on baby screamed at me because he was so mad I took it away. I had to get ahold of myself.

Here are four things that helped me out in this transition. Please note I am not a medical professional and these are not medical tips. They just the tried-and-true techniques of one new mom who one day would love to watch her kid eat a walnut without sweating and crying the whole time he is chewing.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

1. Start with soft foods.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but with all the kids in his age group snacking on Cheerios and teething on carrots, I was oddly convinced I had to give him hard stuff right away. This is just not true. French toast, banana pancakes, incredibly soft scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes with broccoli or spinach were all foods he could easily gum. If he has a big piece, these soft foods practically dissolve with a sip of water. Soft foods that barely require actual chewing was a good way for us to bridge the divide between purées and hard foods.

2. Embrace tiny pieces of food.

I remember one of my best mom friends saying she gave her young daughter a quarter of a blueberry. I laughed (because at the time I was still pregnant and had all the infant-care knowledge of a full-sized blueberry), but it makes sense now.

I go for food that is small enough not to block the windpipe in case it goes down the wrong way but with a texture that requires a little mastication. Tiny tidbits of salmon, roasted chicken, green beans, and the like are all foods that helped me see that yes, he could chew; yes, he could swallow; and yes, there is life beyond those purée pouches.

3. Find the right support group.

This is a tricky one. You want people who support you, but don’t enable you. They realize your fears are real, but want to help you actively combat them. My own support group involves a few really close mom friends, who didn’t make fun of me for my solid-food phobia; my husband, who reminds me that no kid goes to college with a stick blender so he can purée pizza; and my sister, the world’s most loving aunt who also believes in this tough truth: “He’s fine, he’s ready, you have to give him some soft food and let him do his thing.”

One of my mom friends reminds me that every baby gags, and that’s not choking. Another one reminds me to keep water nearby and avoid the small, fruit-flavored puffs if the idea of something sticky makes me nervous. These friends and family members realize my fear is based in reality, but push me to work past my anxiety because my kid is really ready to gnaw on something more than baby oatmeal.

4. Take a CPR course.

This is something I believe every parent and caretaker should do. Take a course to learn how to perform infant and pediatric CPR. This course teaches you what to do if the worst-case scenario arises and you need to take action.

My course was in my own home, only took 45 minutes, and left me with a magnet chart of the important steps to take. That magnet is on my fridge and I religiously go over the steps every day. It’s what I need to do to feel prepared. The class isn’t fun and it’s downright petrifying to go through the scenarios where you might need to use this information, but it’s much more petrifying to think of what you could do if you didn’t take the course.

Do you have any advice for new parents transitioning their baby from purée to solid foods? Did you share the same fear as Sarah? Please let us know in the comments.