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Gagging trick – ARMS UP!

I will never forget the time I had to use my arms up approach with Ciarán when he got some food stuck in his throat. It was rather scary for myself and his teacher Mrs Kelly who was with us at the time.

It made me grateful I had learnt the “Arms up” approach many years ago in London.

I have also received a thank you from a few parents who used the approach and found it beyond helpful. So I felt it was a good time to remind you of it by sharing below. I have also included a video to help demonstrate the technique.

Choking and Gagging

Babies gag and often look like they are choking when they are eating – it is a normal part of learning to eat food. But if you give your baby lumpy food too early, he may refuse to eat because he does not like gagging and choking on the lumps. This is why I suggest you purée your baby’s main meal until he is ten months old. Try to imagine it from your baby’s point of view. He only knew milk and then you introduced runny purée and then thicker purée and he was happy eating this because when he swallowed it went down smoothly. But suddenly the food is confusing because a lump appears from nowhere so he gets a fright and might gag or choke.

Some parents ask me why this would be any different from giving a baby finger foods to chew. The reason it’s different is because when you give your baby things like a banana as a finger food he will start to suck it. He will know it is a new thing so he will be cautious and he will explore the new texture, so if a lump appears in his mouth he will not get such a shock.

Arms up technique

If your child is gagging or choking on lumps in his meal or finger food quickly grab both his wrists and pull his arms straight up in the air while saying ‘Arms up’.

Your child will learn to do this if he is gagging or choking. I was taught this strategy when I was working with children with disabilities in London and I am surprised it is not taught to all parents. It is a fast and effective way of stopping gagging and choking that often results in vomiting.

I advise all parents to follow fully trained and up-to-date medical advice and attend a first-aid course so they know what to do if their child is choking, but I recommend you try this ‘Arms up’ strategy before commencing any other first aid techniques for gagging. Definitely worth a try to save you some panic!

If you are really concerned for your child’s safety please dial 000 first before attempting any other treatment.

Here is a video of me demonstrating the “Arms up” technique:

Tizzie discussing choking and gagging technique from her Feeding book – YouTube

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