1. Seeing an infant choking while breastfeeding can be frightening, especially if she is coughing or sputtering. There are a few reasons why infants choke while breastfeeding, including problems with positioning and taking the nipple. Infants who are lying flat can choke but if you hold her in the right position breastfeeding can be a nice experience for the baby and you. This article will discuss many tips that you can use to prevent infants from choking while breastfeeding.

Why Do Infants Choke While Breastfeeding?

If your baby chokes while breastfeeding, your let-down may be overactive or you may have an oversupply of breast milk.

1. Forceful Let-down

Observe if your baby experiences these:

  • gagging, choking, strangling, gulping, coughing, or gasping while nursing
  • pulling off your breast often
  • clamping down on your nipple to slow down flow of breast milk at let-down
  • making a clicking sound while nursing
  • spitting up often
  • being gassy
  • sometimes refusing to nurse
  • refusing comfort nursing

These are some of the signs that you may be having forceful-let-down, which is associated with having an oversupply or too much milk. Some moms notice that problem starts about three to six weeks after birth. This can be a minor or major problem, which can affect your nursing relationship.

There are two ways you can manage this problem: help your baby deal with the fast flow of breast milk and adjust your supply of milk to your baby's needs. Most moms do a combination of these and it may take a few weeks to see the results.

2. Milk Oversupply

Some mothers complain that they do not produce enough milk for their babies. Ironically, others have an oversupply of milk that their babies choke on it. To help your baby deal with this problem, position your baby's head above your nipple's level so that she is doing “uphill” nursing. You can also try other positions:

  • Cradle the baby in your arms but lean backward on a reclined surface.
  • Do a football hold while leaning backward.
  • Do a football hold but let the baby sit up while facing you. This is a good way to nurse in public places.
  • Lay the baby on her side while lying down so she can dribble extra milk from her mouth.
  • Do the down-under or Australian position by lying on your back and laying the baby on top of you, facing down. The baby's tummy touches your tummy. This should not be done too often because can lead to plugging of your milk ducts.

Don't forget to let the baby burp frequently because she may swallow air while nursing. Nursing more frequently may reduce accumulation of milk between feedings. You can also breastfeed while the baby is relaxed and sleepy because she may suck gently. You can also try delaying breastfeeding until the let-down occurs and the flow of milk slows down before putting your baby on your breast. Another way to do this is to pump out milk first until the flow slows down before breastfeeding. Express less milk every time you do this until the time you can breastfeed without pumping excess milk.

3. More Tips on Preventing Infant Choking While Breastfeeding

  • Another way to deal with an infant choking while breastfeeding due to abundance of milk is to adjust your milk supply to match your baby's needs.
  • You can try nursing from one breast only every time you feed when the baby is gaining enough weight.
  • When your baby finishes nursing on one side and still wants to go on nursing, just put her back on the same side.
  • Your other breast may become uncomfortable, so you may have to express some milk from that side and apply a cool compress until you are relieved. However, try to express less milk every time you do this until there is no need to express milk.
  • Avoid unnecessary pumping of the breast, using breast shells, or running water on them while you shower to avoid stimulating the breast.
  • Apply a cool compress on the breast between feedings to reduce milk production.
  • In extreme cases, mothers may need to try experimenting to breastfeed on one side over four hours to find out how much time per breast works best.
  • Other measures include using herbs and cabbage leaf compress.

Sometimes these measures may not completely eliminate the problem but many mothers find that this will subside when their abundant milk supply and let-down start declining. This happens usually by the twelfth week, when hormonal changes take place. By then your milk supply will be more stable and appropriate to your baby's needs.

Some babies also get used to the fast let-down and oversupply of milk by the third week or up to three months. Your baby might find that the let-down has slowed even when it has not really slowed down.

Watch a video for more on infant choking while breastfeeding :