If your baby is still very young, she has probably choked with milk while you were breastfeeding her. In case that happened, you might have been worried when your little one started coughing. In this article, we’ll talk more about this issue.

It’s common for babies to choke while they breastfeed. This happens because they put too much milk in their mouths and then they can’t swallow it all. This milk excess can block their airway, so we need to be careful, understand the reasons behind this, and prevent it. That way, you and your baby will be able to enjoy the feeding sessions safely.

Firstly, we would like to explain some of the reasons behind the choking:

  1. Milk excess: Sometimes, some moms produce more milk than what their babies can ingest.
  2. Forceful let-down or milk ejection reflex: This refers to the fact that your milk production is so abundant and comes out with such a strong flow, that your baby will try to swallow all of it. If your little one presents some of these symptoms you may have this reflex:
  • She swallows, coughs, and pants while breastfeeding.
  • She detaches frequently from the breast while being breastfed.
  • She holds the nipple while eating.
  • She makes “click” sounds while she breastfeeds.
  • She spits frequently.
  • She has gases.
  • She refuses to be breastfed periodically.

Besides these two causes, choking can be due to your baby’s immature suction since she’s still learning how to breastfeed.

Once you identify the causes, there are different strategies that you can use to avoid your little girl from choking:

a) For the milk excess:

  1. Try to avoid reducing the milk flow during the first six weeks of nursing. During this period, it’s normal for milk production to increase rapidly.
  2. Breastfeed your baby using just one breast.
  3. Try to obstruct the feeding:
    • If your baby is done and then wants to eat some more, offer her the same breast.
    • If the breast you didn’t use is hurting, express some milk until you’re comfortable. However, little by little try to express less milk every time until you don’t need to express anymore.
    • Between each feed, put some cold pads on your breasts for 30-60 minutes. This will reduce milk production.
    • If after a week this doesn’t work, it’s best to seek professional help.
  4. Try full drainage: This method means that you express most of the milk of your breasts before starting to feed your baby.
  5. Avoid anything that may overstimulate your breasts such as unnecessary pumping, wearing breast shells, or running the shower on your breasts for a long time.

b) For the forceful let-down:

  1. Position your baby so that she feeds “uphill” in relation to the breast, using gravity against the milk flow. To do this you can try different nursing positions: the cradle position (but while you are reclined), the football hold, sitting your baby in front of you instead of lying her down, or putting the baby on her side while lying down.
  2. Burp your baby frequently.
  3. Breastfeed more frequently. This will reduce your milk production.
  4. Feed your little one when she is relaxed so that she sucks more gently, and the milk flow decreases.
  5. Wait until the let-down occurs, detach your baby from the nipple, clean the excess with a towel, and attach your little one again.
  6. Express a little amount of milk to reduce the flow and then offer your breast to your baby.

It’s important to know that this won’t happen during the entire period of breastfeeding, so rest assured. As your baby grows, she’ll learn how to control the milk flow, and this will decrease the possibility of choking. However, while your little girl is still young, it’s vital to take the necessary precautions while you feed her. Also, you can consult a breastfeeding advisor or your doctor so that they can guide you on how to breastfeed safely.

References:

Baby choking while breastfeeding
Forceful let-down (Milk ejection reflex) & oversupply
Infant choking while breastfeeding

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