In case you’re curious, babies don’t just shove objects into their mouths to drive you crazy—there is a real, developmental need for them to do it. “Mouthing”, as child development experts call it, is one of the main ways babies learn about new objects. Yes, they can pick up that block and feel it with their hands, bang it on the floor to hear what noise it makes, but they also have a basic, curious need to then lick the shit out of it. It’s a very normal and healthy, albeit kinda gross, way babies explore the world. There are even some theories that babies naturally build up their immune system by mouthing objects to introduce new viruses and bacteria to their system. So all around, mouthing is great.
The problem is these tiny babies have no common sense. So if they find a coin or a paper clip on the floor then it’s fair game to shove in the old pie hole. That’s when we, as parents, have to seriously step-up our baby-proofing game. A baby’s windpipe (trachea) is about the width of a drinking straw so it doesn’t take much to get it clogged up.
When I think of choking, I always think of food (I’m looking at you grapes!!) but surprisingly, these are some of the most common:
(both fridge magnets and toy magnets): In addition to being a choking hazard, if successfully swallowed, two powerful magnets will find each other in the digestive track by tearing holes through a child’s bowels, small intestine, etc. Very bad news.
The worst offenders are those tiny, round button lithium batteries that come in toys, remotes, and musical greeting cards. They basically look like candy. They can cause choking and, if swallowed, one of those tiny magnets can get caught in body tissue and cause a severe chemical burn.
So fun and pretty, but when they burst the pieces go flying and, if inhaled, the latex can perfectly conform to the opening of the trachea. No bueno.
There are so many horror stories of kids getting these lodged in their throats or biting into them causing chemical burns. They look unassuming and, unfortunately, very delicious.
Water Bottle Caps:
Plastic water bottles tend to be very high on a baby’s list of coveted items. The top is the perfect shape to shove against sore, teething gums and the bottle crinkles—so fun! But it turns out those round lids are a common item to get lodged in the throat, so keep an eye out for them sitting around or take them off before handing your baby one of the best toys ever.
They’re shiny, they’re smooth, they tumble out of adults’ pockets, what’s not to love? I find these to be a big offender at grandparents’ houses. Coins are everywhere and they are just the right size to block off a baby’s airway.
You know those white plastic things that cover door stoppers? A determined baby can totally wedge those off and pop it like a Skittle. Clever monkeys.
These are basically a perfect-sized plug for your child’s trachea. Cut up hot dogs LENGTH WISE and then into smaller pieces from there.
They should be chopped in half length-wise and then quartered from there. Ditto other round fruits, like grape tomatoes and strawberries.
Popcorn, peanuts, nuts & seeds, carrots, apples:
I thought some of these were all fine until I read how easily these tough/hard snacks can block the airway if not chewed up properly.
Dry kibble is often accessible to a crawling baby looking for a handy snack and is often a perfect windpipe size.
These compressible treats get stuck together and can plug up an airway pretty quick.
Unfortunately, even if you are being super vigilant your child might still choke on something. According to the CDC, for every choking-related death, there are 100 ER visits every year. So what do you do if you see your kid choking? Check out this helpful video on infant and toddler CPR:
(Side note: I have no idea why the dogs are there – they seem equally confused with their participation.)
May you never need it and happy grape slicing!
Special thanks to our friend Teresa at Stewart Family Solutions for her help developing this list!