The sight of your infant coughing and sputtering on the bottle is frightening, but usually preventable. An baby might choke during a feeding for a variety of reasons, ranging from a problem with the nipple to an issue with the way she's positioned. If you let your infant lie flat when feeding her, it can make her choke, notes WebMD. However, by using the proper nipple and holding your infant in the correct position, you can make bottle-feeding a pleasant experience for both of you.
Inspect the nipples on your infant's bottles to make sure they're in good condition. If they have any tears or other signs of wear, replace them. Even a small crack or tear can let too much formula or milk through and cause your baby to choke.
Hold the bottle upside down after you prepare it. The milk or formula should drip out at about one drop per second. If it flows more quickly, it may be too fast for your infant to handle. Try switching to a slower nipple flow. Preemies and newborns typically need the smallest size nipple, often labeled, "Stage 1," as it has the slowest flow, according to the BabyCenter website.
Cradle your infant in one arm, with his head resting in the crook of your elbow and slightly elevated above the rest of his body. Hold the bottle at about a 45-degree angle from your infant's mouth. This will keep the nipple full of milk and prevent air swallowing, but will not make the milk or formula come so fast that he chokes.
Bring the nipple to your infant's mouth, allowing him to begin feeding. If you notice that he starts to gulp his formula, stop the feeding, as this is a sign that the flow is too fast. You likely will have to replace the nipple.
Keep your infant's head facing forward as you feed her. Don't let it tilt so far back that you can see the front of her neck easily. If your infant's head is turned to the side or tilted back, swallowing will be more difficult for her.
Watch your baby as she feeds. If she stops sucking on the nipple, remove it from her mouth as she might be full -- and the continued flow of milk can cause her to choke.
Experiment with different brands or styles of nipple. Nipples come in a variety of shapes and sizes with some designed with specific purposes such as to simulate breastfeeding or reduce colic. These designs may work well for certain infants, but cause problems, including choking, for others.
- Never leave your infant alone with a propped bottle as it's a choking hazard, notes the KidsHealth website. If the bottle is propped up against your infant's mouth without you there, he won't be able to control or stop the flow and may choke more easily.
- Consult your child's pediatrician if choking continues to be an issue, as it could be a sign of an underlying problem.
- The Baby Book; William Sears, M.D., et al.
- Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: From Doctors Who Are Parents, Too!
- Caring For Your Baby and Young Child; The American Academy of Pediatrics
- BabyCenter: How to buy bottles and nipples
- WebMD: Your Guide to Bottle Feeding
- KidsHealth: Formula Feeding FAQS: Some Common Concerns
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images