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Gagging Vs Choking in Babies: What’s the Difference?

Gagging Vs Choking in Babies
Gagging Vs Choking in Babies

One of the biggest fears a parent could have with their little one is him or her gagging. Often confused with choking, gagging is a natural built-in mechanism in our bodies that helps to protect our airways and bring up food that we are not quite ready to swallow, whereas choking happens when something gets stuck in the throat and blocks the airway.

Although this can be a very scary thing, it should not hold you back as this is a sign that your baby is growing up. When they first start having solids, they have to figure out and get used to chewing, swallowing, and breathing at the same time, which is crucial during the process of eating. 

Being overly fearful of them gagging could inhibit their growth and slow down the process of them learning how to eat properly. So, parents should put away that fear and instead, encourage them in order for them to gain this basic skill essential for survival. The more opportunities you give your baby to feed on complementary foods, the lesser your baby will gag.

How to know if your baby is gagging or choking?

So how do you differentiate between a gag and a choke? One main difference is that when a baby gags, you can hear the sound of gagging whereas when a baby is choking, the baby becomes silent and turns blue. 

Yes, the sound of gagging may be unpleasant, but it is essential and there should not be any intervention from parents while this happens. Another thing to note is that a little vomiting here and there on some days during meal times should be expected. 

However, if your baby is vomiting every single time you introduce food, that is not typical and you should quickly seek help from your pediatrician and speech therapist that can help you with that problem.

What to do to reduce risk of choking ?

“Stop being so scared of introducing solid foods!” one might say. However, it is easier said than done as it can be quite traumatising for anyone to see a baby gag. When that happens, it is not good if parents are so struck with fear that they do not know what to do. So, here are some tips for parents to be prepared in order to overcome their fear of their infant gagging and reduce the risk of choking.

  1. Introduce solids at the right time

Wait until your infant is around 6 months before introducing solids. But do not immediately start, as you need to make sure your baby is ready for it as well. Among signs to look out for are when the baby is starting to put objects in his or her mouth and when their eyes start to follow your spoon as you eat.

  1. Ensure foot rest on high chair

It is important for your infant’s foot to be placed on a footrest when they are sitting up on a high chair. It is important in facilitating swallowing as it stabilizes the baby’s core and reduces the risk of choking. Avoid dangling feets.

  1. Be on alert during mealtimes

Mealtimes should be focused on eating. Make sure you observe everything that goes into your baby’s mouth. Choking is silent. Do not be distracted with your phone or leave the room to get something when your baby is eating, because you would not be able to hear your baby choking if you are not present. 

  1. Do not keep small objects within reach

Little items can be choking hazards as babies may try to reach for them to play and put in their mouths. They might get distracted and end up gagging on either their food or the small objects.

  1. Remain calm when your baby gag

Parents or family members who are attending to the baby during mealtimes should smile and remain calm. Parents should encourage in a calm voice for example “ it is okay, you can cough it out.” or “ you are doing well, you are just gagging, just cough it out”.  This is because if you panic, stand up and rush to intervene, your baby could be startled. This will cause your baby to accidentally inhale while gagging, potentially turning a harmless gag into a dangerous choke. 

How to do Choking Aid

Choking Aid
Choking Aid

There are times when the baby’s gag reflex does not successfully expel food from the baby’s airways. This is when the baby actually starts choking and may stop breathing due to the lodged food. In this case, it is best to be equipped with the knowledge on how to provide relief

Choking First Aid
Choking First Aid

Reference: Printablee.com

Being calm in the face of emergencies like your baby gagging is the first step to overcoming your fear as you would know what action to take. By being prepared, you become confident and the element of fear goes away as you know you will be able to handle whatever situation that presents itself.

On a side note, if you’re introducing solids to your baby while still breastfeeding, know that there are lactation foods and drinks that can help to continue supporting a steady supply of breastmilk. 
Not only that, lactation foods and drinks are also beneficial to a mother’s health as they contain antioxidants, fibre, anti-inflammatory compounds that are part of a healthy diet which promotes good health maintenance in her golden years. If you’re searching for “lactation food near me” to decide which lactation food to have, check out our lactation meal menu and you’ll be presented with a whole menu of lactation food Singapore to choose from!


  • ReLacto

    We are a team behind the leading lactation meal provider and we believe proper nutrition during breastfeeding is not just something to be experienced, but also worth learning about. On top of preparing nutritious meals for mothers, we’re passionate about researching and sharing useful information on nutrition for lactation and recovery, and occasionally tips on baby weaning through our blogs.