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Heimlich Maneuver In A Baby: What Is It And How To Do It?

Heimlich maneuver in a baby

The Heimlich maneuver in a baby is a technique used to clear the upper airway and is very useful in treating cases of choking.

Have you heard of the Heimlich maneuver? Typically, many parents become familiar with this term for the first time when they introduce solids. That’s because, with this important developmental milestone, your little one begins to discover food as well as the world around them by putting objects in their mouth.

Colors, shapes, and textures, everything is new to a child! However, during this phase of learning and exploration, choking is common in children aged 6 months to four years.

Therefore, parents and caregivers need to be very vigilant, because, in addition to food, children put practically everything in their mouths! Choking can be dangerous and you need to act quickly if it happens. For that reason, it is essential to learn techniques such as the Heimlich maneuver in a baby, since it can restore the flow of oxygen and resuscitate your little one.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Keep reading to better understand how this maneuver works and how it should be performed on babies.

What Is The Heimlich Maneuver In A Baby And Why Is It Important?

The Heimlich maneuver is one of the best-known and most recommended procedures for treating upper airway obstruction outside a hospital setting. It is even recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The method was introduced in the 1970s in the United States by surgeon Henry Heimlich. The technique can be learned and does not need to be applied by a medical professional. Anyone who masters the process can help those who are suffocating.

When you have a baby, learning the Heimlich maneuver becomes even more important. In addition to starting to eat solids, the reality is that young children often put all kinds of objects in their mouths.

Pieces of food or small objects like toys or coins can get stuck in the airway and prevent your child from breathing. If that happens, be prepared to help your baby and prevent more serious consequences.


How Do You Know If You Need To Perform The Heimlich Maneuver?

Many parents wonder if their child is choking or when is the right time to intervene. Here are some clear signs that your baby needs help:

  • Your baby is suddenly unresponsive: A choking child can’t cough, cry, talk, or breathe.
  • Violent coughing: A baby’s cough is usually a good sign as it shows that the airway is partially blocked and the body is reacting and trying to expel the stuck object. However, if the cough persists for a long time and becomes violent, it is a sign that the child has difficulty clearing their airway.
  • Wheezing or unusual sound when trying to breathe: When opening the mouth, the child may make a high-pitched, strange noise or even make no sound at all.
  • Pale or bluish skin: Due to lack of oxygen, the skin color may change.

How Should The Heimlich Maneuver Be Performed In A Baby Or Child?

The Heimlich maneuver is indicated to help babies older than 12 months.

To do it, hug the child from behind and perform upward compressions below the ribs until you see that the object that caused the choking is expelled through the mouth.

If at any time during the procedure you see the object that caused the blockage in your baby’s mouth, remove it carefully. However, don’t try this if you can’t see it clearly, as putting your finger in your child’s mouth could hurt them or even push the object deeper.

How To Help Babies Under 1 Year Old Who Are Choking?

If your child is younger than 12 months, follow these steps:

  • Hold your baby face down on your forearm, then place your arm with the baby on your thighs. Tilt your little one down slightly; their head should be below the rest of their body.
  • Support their head with one hand. Hold their chin and keep their mouth open to facilitate the airflow and to allow for the object that is obstructing the airway to be expelled
  • Use your other hand to give five firm taps on the center of your baby’s back, just between the shoulder blades (bones that promote shoulder movement). The object is usually expelled with this movement. If not, repeat this part of the procedure.
  • Then, turn the baby onto their back, still resting them on your forearm and thigh, and tilt them slightly (their head should be below the body). Place two fingers in the center of your baby’s chest, between their nipples. Do five compressions, pushing firmly on the area, until the object is expelled or your little one reacts.

Continue the series of five taps and five thrusts until the blockage is released or the child reacts.

In both cases (children under or over 12 months), ask someone to call 911 or seek medical help while you perform the procedure. If your baby loses consciousness, CPR will be necessary.

What To Do To Avoid Choking?

Better safe than sorry, right? The Heimlich maneuver in a baby is an extremely useful tool, however, to avoid such a distressing situation, it is good to pay attention to some practices that can prevent choking. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t let your baby play with toys that contain small parts. If you have older children who have these kinds of toys, always supervise them during playtime.
  • As we mentioned, when introducing solids, take care of what you feed your little one. The food you give them should be cut into small pieces and have a very soft or crushed texture. Take the opportunity to download the Kinedu app and watch some classes about the introduction of solids and other relevant topics for parents.
  • Small, hard pieces of food (such as nuts, peanuts, chestnuts, etc.), or foods such as corn, beans, popcorn, and whole grapes, can be swallowed without chewing and therefore present a high choking hazard.
  • Supervise your baby while they eat. Don’t let them eat while lying down and try to always feed them when they’re sitting in a high chair, and not while they’re walking or playing.
  • Make sure to keep small items that we commonly have at home out of your baby’s reach. For example coins, buttons, batteries, pen caps, among others.

Learning to perform the Heimlich maneuver in a baby is an important step for parents and caregivers so they can help the child in the event of choking. Being prepared will allow your little one to continue exploring the world with curiosity and creativity in a safe way. It is important to note that even after performing the procedure and reanimating a baby, it is recommended that parents take their child to the hospital to check that everything is okay.

Have you ever had to do the Heimlich maneuver? Have you heard of this technique before? Leave a comment and share your experience with us!

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