Common Mom Mistake : Unexpected Choking Hazards

You’ve probably heard that hotdogs and toddlers, don’t mix and not only because they’re NOT the healthiest choice. These slippery tubes of meat can easily become a choking hazard, but did you know that popcorn can too? Because toddlers can’t chew very well and because a lot of small snacks, like popcorn, can have pieces that can cause choking and even end up directly in their lungs. Many other foods you might not have thought of can be a dangerous addition to snack time. And while you can cut a hot dog into tiny pieces, that’s a little less practical for popcorn, so you might just want to wait until you’re angel is a little older to serve anything with pieces that are very hard, small or not. Here’s a list of some other yummy but hazardous foods to be aware of for your child younger than four.

  1. Grapes: you might already know this one, but it’s worth mentioning just how dangerous grapes can be for little kids. Grapes are right around the size of young child’s throat and these orbs might just perfectly block an airway, causing a major danger. Your little one can still enjoy grapes as long as they are cut up into small pieces, perhaps quartered. As an extra precaution, grape skin should also be removed for small babies so that the skin does not become another hazard if it gets separated from the fruit.
  2. Peanut butter: gum, taffy, peanut butter, and other viscous snacks can block your child’s airway if eaten in large globs which can conform to and stick to their airway. This shouldn’t be much of a problem for a layer of peanut butter on a sandwich or a dip for apple slices but eaten straight out of the jar might make for a sticky situation, so just be aware and have a drink handy to help wash it down. It’s worth noting, too, that natural nut butters pose a lower threat to toddlers because they are naturally thinner. Opting for a nut butter whose only ingredients are “nuts” (and maybe salt) will be easier on your toddler’s tiny mouth.
  3. Meat/cheese/vegetable: Basically everything, no matter how soft or easily chewable in your eyes, should be cut up before serving it to your toddler. This is an extremely broad hazard to list, I know, but it’s important to consider that even a steamed vegetable and a soft cheese can pose a threat similar to a chunk of meat if it’s the wrong size. Don’t rely on the fact that your child will chew their food, a lot of times—he/she won’t, so make sure she/he will still be okay when this happens.
  4. Bread: for babies under two, even cut up bread can get stuck on the roof of their mouth and make it hard to breathe. One solution for this is lightly toasting the bread first so that it’s less gummy. Another option is to make sure you’re feeding your angel a “healthier” bread. My sweet pea loves Ezekiel Sesame bread.  That’s much safer for her (in numerous ways) than eating super processed fluffy white bread.  
  5. Balloons: one of the most mesmerizing treats for a baby, having a balloon, can also be one of the most dangerous in both inflated AND uninflated forms. Babies often chew or suck on the smooth rubber of uninflated balloons or mistakenly suck them in when trying to inflate them and accidentally swallow. Smaller babies can bite on them causing them to pop and end up with dangerous pieces blocking their windpipes. Because of their stretchy nature, balloons make especially dangerous choking hazards as they conform to the trachea and are usually too slippery to sweep out with your finger. Make sure your child doesn’t have access to balloons without very attentive supervision.  Be sure you’re younger babysitters and/or mother’s helpers are informed of this hazard in particular.  I’ve found they often show up super enthusiastic with a bag of tricks (kudos to those rock star helpers) though may not understand the impact of some toys.

Additional tips

  1. Focus on eating. If it’s time to eat and your toddler is a chatterbox or giggle monster or wants to play, there’s a higher chance of accidentally or prematurely swallowing unchewed food, leading to a potential choking crisis. Always keep your child seated and focused on slowly enjoying that delicious food for the best outcome. It’s best for devices to remain turned off while eating as well. Tv is a distraction that not only could cause loss of food focus, and, thus choking.  You could be setting up a habit of mindless eating in front of a tv that could last throughout life and cause a weight or health problem.
  2. Don’t force dinner during a tantrum: Similar to the previous point, if your baby or child is crying, they’re often sporadically gasping for air which can lead to some unintentional swallowing. Just put a pause on dinner so they don’t mistakenly inhale that unchewed piece of chicken.