Tag Archives: weaning

These foods are a choking hazard, do not give them to your children

It is reported that around 2,600 choking accidents in the UK each year involve children under four years of age. That’s over 7 children per day, everyday. It is likely that this statistic is considerably lower than factual incidents due to the amount of choking incidents that go unreported. Children choke on small toys and on food that is too big and too difficult dislodge. A study in the journal of the American Medical Association 30 years ago concluded a child every five to six days chokes to death on a food. This study has not been repeated but Smith, who conducted the study says says “I have no reason to think those numbers have changed because there haven’t been major changes in surveillance or protection.” Here is our guide on the food you should avoid giving your children and the things you can do to make them a little safer if you are going to give them.

Peanuts are often avoided anyway due to the risk of an allergic reaction, however, they also pose a choking risk; it is possible they may block the lower airway so should be completely avoided.

Chewing gum
According to the international chewing gum association, Chewing gum can be a choking hazard. The gum base, which is a component of the gum that makes it stretchy and tough, is more difficult to swallow than ordinary foods. Older children should always spit gum out to prevent choking and also prevent a build up of gum in the rectum (if large amounts have been swallowed).

Popped, half popped or not popped at all, popcorn is a choking hazard and should be avoided. It doesn’t dissolve, is jagged in shape and is hard to dislodge if stuck, your child’s trachea (windpipe) is the size of a drinking straw – imagine trying to suck air through a straw with a piece of popcorn wedged on the end if it. Due to popcorn being so lightweight, there is also a risk that it can be ‘sucked’ down accidentally by your child, this could result in choking (as stated) or the popcorn sitting on one of your child’s lungs (this is likely to cause an infection if not medically removed).

For the same reasons as popcorn; chips are hard and light so difficult to dislodge and easily swallowed accidentally (before chewing).

Round slices of hotdogs or sausages
Whether cut into a round shape or eating whole, the shape forms a perfect ‘plug’ over the trachea and is very difficult to remove. If you are giving your child sausages and hotdogs you should always cut them length ways as well as chop long ways.

Carrot sticks or baby carrots
All vegetables should be steamed (preferably) or boiled, grated or chopped into thin matchstick shapes before giving to your child. This makes them softer, easier to chew, easier to cough up if swallowed accidentally and less likely to cause a choking incident.

Tough meat and meat with gristle and bone
It is heavy and can easily slip to the back of your child’s throat. You should remove all fat, gristle and bones and chop into small pieces. You can further mitigate the risk by slow cooking, mincing or shredding.

Hard candy
An 8 year study between 2001 and 2009 reported more than 16,100 children aged 14 and younger visited the A&E because they were choking on hard candy. It is the number one food for causing choking incidents in children and should be completely avoided.

Whole grapes
Don’t be fooled by their nutritional value. Grapes are a huge choking risk. Whole grapes should be completely avoided for as long as you can and cut up grapes (you should cut into quarters as a minimum) only given once you are confident your child can sit up properly and chew foods well. Babies should not be given grapes at all ; even when they are cut up they can still result in a choking episode if not chewed properly.

Cherry tomatoes
Avoid cherry tomatoes as you would grapes. The size and texture are similar and the outcome of not chewing (or not being being able to chew) properly will be the same.

Large pieces of raw fruits and vegetables
Raw fruit and vegetables can be very hard and difficult for your child to chew, particularly if his/her molars (back teeth) haven’t cone through yet. You could cook them slightly to soften them or grate them (such as carrots and apples). Soft pears and bananas don’t need to be avoided but you should, of course, never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

Every precaution should be taken to avoid choking episodes, if you are using the baby led weaning technique you should still take the above precautions as these are the highest risk foods. There is never a substitute for supervising your child when eating and it is recommended you learn basic first aid for children. Encourage your child to sit up whilst eating and never allow them to play as this will also increase the risk. If you have any questions, please ask.

How to wean baby off a dummy and when?

Weaning your little one off a dummy should be done sooner rather than later. Here is all you need to know on the when, why and how to do it without too many (if any) tears.

What is the best age to start weaning off a dummy?

It is recommended you begin the weaning process at around 6-8 months; you should start to limit it’s use to only sleep time with a view of completely stopping by around 12 months.

Why is it important to stop my child using it?

There is evidence to suggest that overuse of a dummy for a prolonged period can cause problems with speech development. It will also reduce dribbling and sore chins, potentially reduce the risk of ear infections, help your child to develop grown up eating patterns and encourage talking/babbling.

5 Sensible tips for successful dummy weaning

  • Start off gradually – firstly reduce dummy use to sleep time only, then to night time only.
  • Explain to your child (no matter what age) that the dummy has gone or the dummies are broken.
  • At times when you would have given a dummy, try something else such as a cuddle or a favourite toy.
  • If your child understands, try giving the dummy to someone special such as Father Christmas or the dummy fairies. Sometimes they leave special notes and presents to say thank-you.
  • Don’t have an emergency back up. At some point, your child will cry for his dummy, if you have an emergency dummy you will always be tempted to use it. Once you have made the decision. Stick to it.
  • Praise her and tell everyone what a big girl she is (so she can hear how proud you are).
  • Never cut or damage the dummy and give it back to your child – this is a potential choking hazard.
  • Resources:
    NHS Wolverhampton

    This is an 8 month old sitting in her high chair, smiling and enjoying some finger food

    Weaning advice, information and helpful tips

    This shows a 6 month old baby sitting in a high chair with food all over the tray

    Weaning is the process of gradually introducing your baby to solid foods, eventually your baby will be eating the same foods as the rest of the family. This is a big milestone in your baby’s life and I have all of the essentials covered including when to start weaning, which foods to avoid, freezing and defrosting guidelines and what to look out for.

    What is weaning?

    Weaning is the process of gradually introducing solid foods to your baby until he is eating the same, healthy foods as an adult. Babies get all of their nutrients from milk; the amount of milk your baby wants will naturally and gradually reduce as he eats more solid foods. Toddlers, preschoolers and school children continue to need milk as part of their everyday diet.

    When should I start weaning my baby?

    It is advised that you should start weaning at around 6 months old. Your baby is ready to be weaned when all of the following applies:

    • He is able to sit in an upright position and support his own head
    • He is able to focus on food in front of him and pick it up unaided and place it in his mouth (using his hands)
    • He is able to swallow the food rather than push it back out with his tongue

    If he is unable to do the above and has started waking more often during the night, wants extra feeds during the day or has started to chew his fists, this is not necessarily a sign of being ready for solid foods. In this situation try offering more milk feeds. Let weaning happen at its own natural pace and talk to your health visitor if you have any worries or concerns.

    What equipment do I need when weaning?

    This is a fisher price easy clean high chairIf you are already in the habit of cooking freshly prepared meals then you may not need to buy any additional cooking equipment for when you start weaning. As long as you have a saucepan, frying pan, mixing bowl, chopping board and colander then you are pretty good to go. Some parents find it easier to use a 3 tier electric steamer, particularly if cooking large quantities of different foods at the same time (to store for later use). You will also need a hand blender if you are feeding your baby puréed food rather than using the ‘baby led weaning’ technique. I used the following items, (my advice would be to borrow a bumbo seat if you can as you won’t need it for very long):

    • A Bumbo seat with a tray
    • A high-chair
    • plenty of bibs
    • Splash mats
    • Storage pots or ice cube trays with lids (for storing your baby’s food in the fridge/freezer)
    • Training cup (for water)
    • Weaning spoons and bowls (if feeding your baby purées).

    How do I get started with weaning?

    Six month old baby looking straight at the camera with orange pureed food on her chicken. Possibly sweet potatoTo avoid the risk of choking, never leave your child alone when he is eating, he should always be sitting upright and facing forwards in a high-chair or a Bumbo seat with a tray. For first tastes, you only need to offer a few teaspoons of mashed or puréed vegetables/fruit per day. To reach the right consistency, this can be mixed with your little ones usual milk. Try offering a variety of different tastes and textures, let him touch the food and allow him to feed himself with his fingers. If you are using a spoon, never force it into his mouth, just try again later if he doesn’t seem interested. It is not important how much your baby eats to begin with as he will still be getting most of his goodness from his usual milk feeds. The best advice I had when I started weaning my first born was to invest in a weaning and meal planner recipe book.

    What foods should I avoid?

    There are some foods you should avoid giving altogether, some which should be avoided until a certain age (and the weaning process is complete) and some which can be given but pose a risk of choking so will need you to be extra careful. The advice is as follows:

    • EGGSAt least 6 months old. If you have decided to wean before he is 6 months old then you must avoid giving him eggs. For babies 6 months or older; cook the egg until both the white and the yolk are solid.
    • HONEYAt least 12 months old. This is a sugar and can lead to tooth decay and has also been known to cause infant botulism (a very serious illness that affects your baby’s intestines). You should not give honey until your baby is at least 12 months old.
    • LOW FAT FOODSAt least 2 years old. Fat is very important for both your baby’s daily calorie intake and is a source of some essential vitamins. Children under two years of age should always be given full fat dairy products such as cheese, cheese This is a salt pot with a red line through it to indicate no salt to be used when cooking for your babyspreads, yoghurt or fromage frais.
    • RAW SHELLFISHAvoid. This should be avoided as it may increase the risk of food poisoning
    • NUTSAt least 5 years old. Due to the risk of choking, you should not give nuts to any child under 5.
    • SALT – Avoid. You should never add salt to your babies food or use stock cubes or gravy as these also have a high salt content.
    • SATURATED FATLimit the amount of saturated fats you give your baby such as chips, cakes and cheap burgers.
    • SHARK, SWORDFISH AND MARLINAvoid. The mercury levels in these fish can have a negative affect on your baby’s growing nervous system.
    • SUGAR Avoid. You may find that by giving your baby sweet foods, you ecourage a sweet tooth, this could lead to tooth decay. For more information on how to prevent tooth decay, see our how to care for baby teeth page.

    The following foods pose a choking hazard and you should be very careful if giving them to your baby:

    • Raw carrots
    • Large apple pieces
    • Grapes
    • Cherry tomatoes

    What are the typical signs of an allergic reaction and what should I do?

    If you have a history of asthma, eczema, food allergies or hayfever in your family then your baby is also more likely to develop an allergy. You can help to reduce this risk by exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months. If you are bottle feeding your baby, it may be worth getting a formula recommendation from your GP. You should also try to introduce foods that are known to cause food allergies at a time that you can watch for and quickly identify any allergic reaction (these foods are: milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish).
    The typical signs of a food allergy are:

    • A cough
    • Diarrhoea or vomiting
    • Itchy skin or rash
    • Itchy throat or tongue
    • Runny or blocked nose
    • Sore, red and itchy eyes
    • Wheezing and shortness of breath

    If you think your baby is suffering from an allergic reaction you should always seek medical advice immediately. Never cut a food out of your baby’s diet before discussing it with your GP.

    How much milk should I give when weaning?

    To begin with your baby will be getting all of the nutrients he needs from his milk feeds. As your baby starts to eat more solid foods, the This is a 7 month old baby being bottle fed amount of milk he wants will start to reduce. Once your baby is eating breakfast, lunch and dinner you can then drop a milk feed. You should continue to breastfeed your baby or if you are bottle feeding, make sure he gets at least 500-600ml (approximately a pint) of infant formula per day.

    Is it safe to store food for later use?

    It is absolutely safe to make your baby’s food in bulk and store it for later use as long as it is stored and reheated correctly. You should follow these guidelines:

    • Transfer the meal into an airtight container as soon as possible
    • Cool it down, preferably within 2 hours. You can do this by running it under cold tap water and occasionally stirring it. This will ensure the food is thoroughly cooled throughout.
    • Once it has cooled, place it in the fridge or freezer.
    • Food placed in the fridge should be eaten within 2 days.
    • Food placed in the freezer should be thoroughly defrosted before being reheated.
    • When reheating food, make sure it is piping hot all the way to its centre and allow it to cool before giving to your baby.

    What is the best way to defrost frozen baby meals?

    There are 2 options to safely defrost your baby’s frozen meals, these are:4 storage pots for baby food in pink, purple and green

    • In the fridge overnight.
    • Place the frozen meal in a leak proof plastic bag (to avoid contamination) and fully submerse in clean, cold water. The water must be replaced with fresh cold water every 30 minutes until the food has completely thawed. The whole meal must be cooked/heated up immediately.
    • You should never defrost frozen food on the kitchen counter or anywhere else not listed above.

    How long can I store cooked food in the freezer?

    Food stored in a freezer at a maximum temperature of 0 degrees Celsius is safe for an almost indefinite period of time. I do however recommend storing baby food in the freezer for no longer than 2 months, this way you can be sure that the quality of the food is not being compromised.

    Do I need to sterilise my baby’s bowls and cutlery?

    There is no need to sterilise your baby’s bowls and cutlery. If you have a dishwasher, they should be placed on the top shelf and washed using the highest temperature setting. If you are hand washing them, wash in hot soapy water.

    I hope you found these weaning tips helpful, I would love to hear about your experiences of weaning and any comments, tips, information or advice you can offer that I haven’t covered. Thanks for reading!