Lessons Learned from My Daughter Choking

By Polly Conner
November 9, 2012

Last night my 17 month old daughter choked.

She’s ok but it was pretty scary.

My mom was actually watching my daughter, Adelyn, while I was out with my husband and some friends for my 30th birthday. Adelyn was walking around and munching on a snack and apparently just froze and gave my mom a very strange look. My mom quickly realized what was happening and went into action. What’s crazy is that I recently had a conversation with my mom about how to respond to a choking toddler. Between her experience as a nurse and our recent conversation on what to do, she was able to save Adelyn’s life. I’m not being dramatic. Adelyn couldn’t breathe and even after doing the heimlich maneuver correctly, the food wasn’t dislodged. After her color started changing that my mom opened her mouth, saw a gob a food way back in her throat and was able to manually remove it. My mom was shaken up and so was Adelyn but we are so thankful everything is ok.

Going to bed that night I started going through the what-if scenarios. “What if my mom hadn’t been in the same room as her?” “What if she couldn’t have seen the food in her throat?” “What if she wouldn’t have known what to do?”

My first reaction to all of this was to clamp down and make things more safe: only feed her softer foods, chop everything up really small, only let her eat when she is in her high chair and when I am present, etc. etc. However, I came to realize that no matter how many safety measures I put in place, things like this can and will still happen. I don’t want to be a “helicopter mom” hovering over my daughter’s every move. But I also want to be wise and discerning of what my protection of my daughter should look like. It’s a difficult balance that probably differs from kid to kid and family to family. However, no matter what end of the pendulum I swing to on a particular day, I was reminded by this incident that I have to trust that God is in control. If I am not resting in his sovereignty and trusting in his love for me and my kids, I will be endlessly fretting about every bad thing that could happen. He is the author of every day of my life and I have to trust that whatever may come, His hand is behind it and will give me what I need to get through it.

Trusting in God does not mean being foolish and careless, however. We are to be good stewards of what he has given us and care for the children he has given us. That being said, this incident has reminded me the importance of a few things:

Have emergency contact information easily available. 

My mom was inches away from calling 911. She knows our street address but if she didn’t, it would have only delayed help since I didn’t point out where I have this information posted. I have a sheet on my fridge that has our phone numbers, home address, a close friend’s number, and poison control’s number. This was a really good reminder to me to point this sheet out to EVERY babysitter. I may even make it bigger and more noticeable now.

Don’t Slack Off

I was starting to get a little lazy in the safety department. My daughter has most of her teeth in so I assumed she could handle most foods. I started to not cut things up as much and let her have little bites of food and snacks as she moves above the house. This incident served as a reminder to not slack off out of laziness. It’s ok to be a little over-protective at this age. They aren’t adults and shouldn’t be given the freedom of one. I imagine this gets harder and harder with the more kids you have but I doubt anyone regrets the extra time and energy it took to keep a child safe while eating.

Prepare Yourself

Listen to me. If you are around kids, this will probably happen to you. I’m not being dramatic- just realistic. Almost every person I have told about this has had some sort of similar experience. If you babysit or are a parent or grandparent, take the 5 minutes to prepare yourself on what to do. I wish I could require all of my babysitters to watch and read the following information.

First Aid for Choking and CPR for children 12 Months and Older

How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on an Infant

How to do the Heimlich Maneuver  on a Child

You’ll never regret the 5-10 minutes it takes to pepare yourself for a choking child.

I’m so thankful that my little lady is up and running full steam. She will never remember the moment that Nana saved her life but I know I will never forget it.

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7 replies
  1. Holl says:

    I’m so glad your baby is okay. I know choking is so scary, its one of my worst fears with little ones, and every time I have experienced it its just as scary as before. I know people have always thought I was a jerk of a parent for having such strict eating rules, but I have them for a reason.
    I think you left out a few things that having working in preschools I was always instructed to do to prevent choking.
    1 Never let a child walk around while eating. Children should always be seated at the table on their bottoms when eating. Falling or SITTING can cause food to be lodged in a child’s throat.
    2 On a regular basis crawl through your home so you are on your child’s eye level so you can see small objects that may have fallen unnoticed.
    3 Children who cram food in should only be given small amounts at a time, not a plate full of food at one time.

    Okay I gotta go Owen is playing with pennies!

  2. Lady Jennie says:

    Just seeing the title on my BlogHer sidebar made my heart beat faster. My 8-year old choked on a piece of cheese, and those several years of life-guard training (First Aid/ CPR) kicked in immediately. But it terrified me that the heimlich seemed to have no effect whatsoever. It was a long time before she was able to cough and get it out, and afterwards told me, “I thought I was going to die mommy.”

    I also ran through scenarios if it had gotten worse, if she had passed out. Oh, I can almost just pass out thinking about it. I’m glad you posted this.

  3. Ward says:

    Great to hear that she’s ok; I can only imagine how scary that might have been. Thanks for sharing your story, tips, and videos.

  4. Rachel says:

    Polly, I’m so thankful Adelyn is ok! I know just how scary it is. I’m so glad you shared these videos and reminders! I’ve had to do Heimlich on my 3-year-old and on my toddler. It really does work, but I had to keep at it several times with my 3-year-old.