Having babies choking on milk is extremely discomforting for both you and your baby.
Every mother or soon to-be-mother has a list of essential topics.
However, few consider emergency issues when nursing their babies.
For example, what would one do when nursing and the baby started choking?
Unbelievable as it may sound, cases of babies choking on milk are high.
The most common ones to prepare for are baby choking on milk while breastfeeding and baby choking on milk while sleeping.
Having too much breast milk is favorable for you and the baby, but it may also be dangerous in rare circumstances.
This is especially true when babies choke on the milk due to an overactive letdown. That is to say, babies choking on milk mainly occurs when your little ones take more milk into their mouth than they can swallow at a time.
Also, as this post explains, other reasons can cause infants to choke on the milk.
Understanding these causes will make it manageable to prevent this problem while feeding your baby.
In addition, prepping in advance will help you stop panicking when it happens so that you can administer some first-aid.
Read on to gather insights about babies choking on milk and practical actions to manage a forceful letdown.
Why Are Babies Choking On Milk?
Babies can start choking on milk because more of it is getting into their mouths than they can swallow at a time.
It usually happens if the mother is producing excess milk or has an overactive letdown, releasing a forceful flow of milk suddenly into your baby’s mouth.
Let down is a reflex that causes oxytocin to release milk when your baby’s suckling stimulates your breasts.
The wrong feeding positions can also cause your baby to choke on the milk.
First-aid Tips To Help Babies Choking On Milk
Excess milk can get in your baby’s airway and block the airflow, making it nearly impossible to breathe.
Your baby will then start choking, gasping, and coughing with milk coming out of their nose.
While this can be unexpected and difficult to watch, this is the time to keep calm and administer first aid as soon as possible to breathe again.
- The first thing you need to do is to lay down your baby on their stomach. Remember to support your baby’s head and neck in your hand. Your baby’s head should be slightly lower than their body in this position.
- With your free hand, give your baby five quick thrusts between the shoulder blades moving upwards. You can combine this with gentle taps to the back until you are sure that the milk blocking their airway is no longer blocking their airway.
- If there’s no change, or your baby becomes unconscious, call a doctor immediately or rush them quickly to the hospital for more specialized care.
As you do this, please remember that you’re dealing with a fragile baby, so use very little force and keep your movements light and easy.
How To Prevent Babies Choking On Milk
The best way of preventing your baby from choking on milk is by changing your feeding position.
Most of the time, babies are fed in a downward position, which means that gravity is also working against them when it comes to how much milk gets into their mouths at one time.
Instead, you can try adopting a laid back feeding position where the baby is slightly higher, which will regulate how much milk they suckle at once.
You can also ensure that your baby slows down and takes a breath by pulling them off your breast every few seconds during feeding time.
If you have a problem with producing excess milk during nursing, make sure that you express milk a minute or two before your baby latches on to reduce the frequency and make it easier on them.
While it may sound impossible, babies choking on milk is real and can be potentially dangerous if you don’t know what to do when it happens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can A Baby Die From Choking On Milk?
Sadly yes. It may happen immediately or later if untreated.
When milk, or rather any fluids or food, enters your baby’s airway, commonly referred to as aspiration, it could harm the lungs.
When fluids build up in the lungs, tissues in there become damaged. Aspiration increases the risks of pneumonia.
Pneumonia, in some cases, can lead to death. Aspiration also may cause dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss and increases chances of other diseases.
Always your child’s healthcare provider if your baby frequently chokes or coughs while eating.
How Do You Know If Baby Is Choking On Milk?
There are a lot of signs you should look out for when breastfeeding or feeding your baby.
Coughing and sputtering milk while struggling to breathe is the most obvious sign to know if a baby is choking on milk.
You shouldn’t ignore other signs: if they are pulling away from the breast frequently, spitting up repeatedly, clicking sounds while feeding and refusing to nurse.
If your baby seems to do these signs when feeding, stop the feeding and position the baby upright with good neck and head support.
Why Does My Baby Choke While Bottle Feeding?
Bottle-fed babies can choke due to some reasons. First, ensure that the attached nipple to the bottle’s neck is perfect for your baby’s age.
The hole in the nipple should be large enough that the milk drops at the rate of one drop per second.
If the nipple hole is too small, the baby will suck too much air, yet your baby will choke on the formula if it’s too large.
Another reason might be the positioning of either you or the baby.
Hold the toddler in a position that the head is slightly elevated and straight. Baby’s head should never tilt in either direction.
Hold the bottom of the bottle so that the formula fills the nipple.
While feeding, burp your baby 2 or 3 times to get rid of the swallowed air.
Can Babies Choke On Milk Vomit While Sleeping?
It all depends on the sleeping position. Babies who sleep on their stomach or side have a high chance of choking on vomit.
Toddlers are likely to swallow less while they rest on the tummy. When a baby sleeps on the stomach, the oesophagus sits above the toddler’s upper airways.
There is a high chance that the milk will pool at the opening of the airways, and the baby will inhale milk into their lungs instead of swallowing it back in the food pipe.
Choking for babies who sleep on their back is rare. The airways are on top of the oesophagus.
In case any milk is vomited out, it will go back into the oesophagus rather than entering the airways.
It’s best to let your baby sleep on the back to lessen the risk of choking.
Why Does My Baby Keep Choking And Coughing After A Meal?
It’s common for toddlers to spit up shortly after feeding. Most babies should outgrow reflux by the time they are a year old.
Reflux happens when the food in a baby’s stomach backs up into the oesophagus.
There is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the food pipe, joining to the stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES.
LES usually opens when you swallow food. In case LES doesn’t close completely, the food and digestive juices in the stomach can come back into the oesophagus.
LES is usually weak or undeveloped for babies, hence the reason they are prone to choking and coughing after a meal.
If your little one keeps spitting up after his first birthday or spits up blood, green or yellow fluid, always consult a medical care provider.
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Iesha is a loving mother of 2 beautiful children. She’s an active parent who enjoys indoor and outdoor adventures with her family. Her mission is to share practical and realistic parenting advice to help the parenting community becoming stronger.