- Stay with your baby while they are eating
- Small round foods like grapes and cherry tomatoes should be cut into quarters. Sausages should be cut lengthways too.
- Peel the skin off fruit, vegetables and sausages.
- Remove hard pips or stones from fruit
- Remove bones from meat or fish
- Avoid whole nuts and peanuts
How to save a choking baby | British Red Cross
Gagging is a normal reflex babies have as they learn to eat and swallow. This is because they’re learning to regulate the amount of food they can chew and swallow at one time. Gagging is not choking but it can be scary for parents when it happens. If your baby is gagging, this is what may happen:
your baby’s eyes may water.
they might push their tongue forward (or out of their mouth).
to bring the food forward in their mouth — they might make a retching movement, or they may vomit.
Your baby will gag less over time if you challenge them with new and different textures. Make sure you never leave a baby or young child alone during feeding and ideally feed them during family mealtimes.
Foods to avoid
Before you start to wean your baby you will it's important to know which foods are safe to feed your child. Here's a list of which ones to avoid and why:
- Sugary snacks: sugar can cause tooth decay. Babies don’t need sugar therefore you should avoid adding it to your baby's food.
- Raw jelly cubes: can get stuck in the throat.
- Whole nuts and peanuts: should not be given to children under 5 years old as this is a choking hazard, however they can be given as a smooth nut butter.
- Honey: avoid honey until your baby is 12 months old – it contains bacteria that can lead to infant botulism, a serious illness that can make your baby very unwell.
- Salty foods: like bacon, sausages, chips with extra salt, crackers, crisps, ready meals, takeaways, gravy and meals made with stock cubes. Babies shouldn't eat salty foods as it isn't good for their kidneys, there's no need to add salt to their food either.
- Mould ripened soft and unpasteurised cheeses — can contain a bacteria called listeria, these include:
- Mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie or camembert, ripened goats' milk cheese, such as chèvre and soft blue-veined cheese, such as Roquefort. Check the labels to make sure you're buying cheese made from pasteurised milk.
- Raw shellfish: this can increase the risk of food poisoning. Children should only eat shellfish that has been thoroughly cooked.
- Shark, swordfish or marlin: high levels of mercury in these fish can affect your baby's growing nervous system.
During meal times, offer your baby sips of water from an open or free-flow cup. Using an open cup, or a free-flow cup without a valve, will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby’s teeth.
If your baby is younger than 6 months, it’s important to sterilise the water by boiling it first and then letting it cool right down.
Drinks to avoid:
- Fruit juice or smoothies: avoid before 12 months as babies don't need them. If you do choose to offer them, dilute with water (one part juice to 10 parts water) and offer with a meal in an open cup/free-flow beaker to avoid tooth decay.
- Squash, fizzy drinks, flavoured milk: even when diluted, these drinks contain lots of sugar and can cause tooth decay. Diet or reduced-sugar drinks are not recommended for babies and toddlers either. Instead, offer sips of water from a cup with meals.
- Cows' milk: cows' milk does not have the right balance of nutrients for babies, so should not be given as a drink before 12 months (however, small amounts can be used in cooking).
- Rice drinks: as they may contain too much arsenic. Avoid them altogether until your child is at least 5 years old.
- Follow-on formula: follow-on formula, growing up milks and goodnight milks are not suitable for babies under 6 months, and are unnecessary after 6 months.
- Unsweetened calcium-fortified, plant-based drinks (such as soya, oat and almond drinks): avoid before your baby is 12 months. These drinks can be given from 12 months as part of a healthy balanced diet. It's important to remember that cows' milk and dairy foods are good sources of nutrients, so don't cut them out of your or your child's diet without first speaking to a GP or dietitian.
- 'baby' and herbal drinks: these usually contain sugars and are not recommended.
- Hot drinks: tea and coffee is not suitable for babies or young children as they contain caffeine.
Preparing Food Safely
Cleanliness and food freshness is important once your baby starts to eat solid food. This is because your baby's immune system is less developed than yours and there tummy’s are more vulnerable to bugs and infections.
You don't need to make your kitchen totally sterile. However, it makes sense to follow these basic hygiene tips:
- Wash and dry your hands before you start to prepare meals for your baby.
- Wash highchairs, bibs, and eating areas in hot, soapy water.
- If your baby is eating finger foods or eating with his hands, wash his hands before he eats his meals.
- Change kitchen cloths and tea towels often.
To avoid food waste, decant the amount of food you think your baby will eat – you can always offer more if they're still hungry. Throw away any half-eaten portions – never save it.
You should also:
- Wash and peel fruit and raw vegetables.
- keep raw meat in a container at the bottom of the fridge (to avoid it dripping onto other food).
- eggs: as long as they have the red lion stamp, your baby can eat them raw (for example in homemade mayonnaise), or lightly cooked – this includes hen, duck, goose or quail eggs. If you can’t see the red lion stamp – cook the egg until the yolk and white are firm.
- Make sure any food you cook is piping hot, then let it cool down before serving. Remember to stay with your baby while they're eating, so you can be sure they are swallowing safely.
Storage and reheating food
If you’re batch cooking, cool the food down (ideally within one to two hours) and then freeze or refrigerate. If you’re keeping it in the fridge – use it within 2 days. With rice, make sure it cools within an hour and then goes straight in the fridge or freezer. Rice kept in the fridge should be eaten within 24 hours – never reheat it more than once.
Defrost frozen food thoroughly before reheating. The safest way to do this is in the fridge overnight, or by defrosting it in the microwave (using the defrost setting).
When reheating food, make sure it’s steaming hot all the way through, then let it cool before giving it to your baby. If you’re using a microwave, give it a good stir to get rid of any hot air pockets – always check the temperature before feeding your baby. You can do this by checking the temperature on your wrist. Any cooked food should only be reheated once.
If you take food (such as sandwiches or yoghurts) with you when you go out, it's a good idea to use a cool bag and frozen bottles of water, or ice blocks, to keep it cold until you're ready to eat it. If food is not kept cold, it should be eaten as soon as possible (within 4 hours maximum).