baby grunts and strains while sleeping

Prevent Baby Choking on Saliva While Sleeping with These Essential Tips

In this alarming incident, a baby’s safety is compromised as they choke on their own saliva while sleeping.

Table of Contents

Common Reasons Why Babies Might Choke on Saliva While Sleeping

Babies are more likely to choke on saliva while sleeping due to several factors. One common reason is that babies have not yet developed the ability to swallow their saliva effectively. This can lead to an accumulation of saliva in their mouth, which may cause choking if it enters the airway. Additionally, babies often sleep on their backs, which can make it easier for saliva to flow back into the throat and potentially block the airway.

Another possible reason why babies might choke on saliva while sleeping is if they have excessive drooling. Excessive drooling can occur during teething or as a result of certain medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or allergies. The excess saliva can pool in the baby’s mouth and increase the risk of choking.


Possible reasons why babies might choke on saliva while sleeping:

  • Underdeveloped swallowing reflex
  • Sleeping position
  • Excessive drooling
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Allergies

Tips for parents:

  • Ensure that your baby is placed in a safe sleeping position, such as on their back with no pillows or blankets that could obstruct their airway.
  • If your baby has excessive drooling, consider using bibs or cloth pads to absorb the saliva and prevent it from pooling in their mouth.
  • If you suspect that your baby has GERD or allergies, consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management strategies.

How to Identify if Your Baby is Choking on Saliva While Sleeping

Signs and Symptoms

If you suspect that your baby may be choking on saliva while sleeping, there are certain signs and symptoms to look out for. These include coughing or gagging sounds, difficulty breathing or noisy breathing, turning red or blue in the face, sudden awakening from sleep, and excessive drooling. Additionally, you may notice your baby struggling to swallow or appearing distressed during feeding.

Observation and Monitoring

To identify if your baby is choking on saliva while sleeping, it is important to closely observe their behavior during sleep. Keep an eye out for any unusual movements or sounds that may indicate discomfort or distress. It can also be helpful to use a baby monitor with audio capabilities to listen for any abnormal noises coming from your baby’s room.

Preventing Choking on Saliva: Positions and Postures for Babies During Sleep

The Back-to-Sleep Position

One effective way to prevent babies from choking on saliva during sleep is by placing them in the back-to-sleep position. This means laying them down on their back rather than their stomach or side. The back-to-sleep position helps keep the airway clear and reduces the risk of obstruction caused by saliva pooling in the mouth.

Elevating the Head

Another preventive measure is elevating your baby’s head slightly while they sleep. This can be achieved by using a firm pillow or placing a rolled-up towel under the mattress at the head end of the crib. Elevating the head helps promote better airflow and prevents saliva from accumulating in the throat.


It is important to ensure that any pillows or other objects used for elevation are securely positioned and do not pose a suffocation hazard to the baby.

Potential Complications and Health Risks of Babies Choking on Saliva While Sleeping

Choking on saliva while sleeping can potentially lead to various complications and health risks for babies. These include:

1. Aspiration Pneumonia: If saliva enters the lungs instead of being swallowed, it can cause inflammation and infection in the respiratory system.

2. Breathing Difficulties: When the airway is partially or completely blocked by saliva, babies may experience difficulty breathing, leading to oxygen deprivation and potential respiratory distress.

3. Sleep Disruptions: Choking episodes can disrupt a baby’s sleep, causing frequent awakenings and poor quality of rest, which can negatively impact their overall well-being.

4. Increased Risk of SIDS: In rare cases, choking on saliva during sleep has been associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, more research is needed to fully understand this connection.

It is crucial to address any concerns regarding choking on saliva with a healthcare professional to ensure appropriate management and minimize potential risks.

(Note: This information does not substitute medical advice; always consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.)

Underlying Medical Conditions That Could Contribute to Babies Choking on Saliva During Sleep

There are several underlying medical conditions that could contribute to babies choking on saliva during sleep. These may include:

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD): GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and increasing the production of saliva. This excess saliva can lead to choking if not managed properly.

2. Neurological Disorders: Certain neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy or developmental delays can affect muscle control and coordination, including those involved in swallowing. This impairment may result in difficulties managing saliva during sleep.

3. Structural Abnormalities: Structural abnormalities in the mouth or throat, such as a cleft palate or laryngomalacia (floppiness of the voice box), can interfere with normal swallowing and increase the risk of choking on saliva while sleeping.

4. Respiratory Conditions: Babies with respiratory conditions like chronic lung disease or asthma may produce more saliva due to increased mucus production. This excess saliva can contribute to choking episodes during sleep.

If you suspect an underlying medical condition is causing your baby to choke on saliva, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management strategies.

(Note: This information does not substitute medical advice; always consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.)

Immediate Steps to Take if Your Baby is Choking on Saliva While Asleep

Assess the Situation

If you notice that your baby is choking on saliva while asleep, it is important to stay calm and quickly assess the situation. Check if your baby is able to cough or make any sounds, as this indicates that they are still able to clear their airway to some extent. However, if your baby is unable to cough or breathe properly, immediate action is necessary.

Perform Back Blows and Chest Thrusts

To help relieve the choking, you can perform back blows and chest thrusts on your baby. Place your baby face-down along your forearm with their head lower than their body and support their jaw with your hand. Deliver firm but gentle blows between the shoulder blades using the heel of your hand. If this doesn’t work, turn your baby over onto their back and perform chest thrusts by placing two fingers in the middle of their chest just below the nipple line and pushing inward and upward.

Call for Emergency Medical Assistance

If the choking persists or worsens despite these measures, it is crucial to call emergency medical assistance immediately. Time is of the essence in such situations, so it’s important not to delay seeking professional help.

Preventive Measures and Techniques to Reduce the Likelihood of Babies Choking on Saliva During Sleep

Elevate Your Baby’s Head

One way to reduce the likelihood of babies choking on saliva during sleep is by elevating their head slightly while they rest. You can achieve this by placing a small pillow or towel under the mattress at one end of the crib or bassinet. This slight elevation helps promote better drainage of saliva from their mouth.

Ensure Proper Burping After Feeding

Another preventive measure is to ensure that your baby burps properly after each feeding session. This helps release any trapped air in their stomach, reducing the chances of regurgitation and subsequent choking on saliva during sleep. Gently patting or rubbing your baby’s back while holding them upright can help facilitate burping.

Regularly Clean Your Baby’s Mouth

Keeping your baby’s mouth clean and free from excess saliva can also help prevent choking incidents during sleep. Use a soft, damp cloth to gently wipe their gums, tongue, and inside of the cheeks after feedings or before bedtime. This removes any residual saliva or milk that may accumulate and pose a choking hazard.

The Impact of Age on the Likelihood of Babies Choking on Saliva While Sleeping

Newborns and Infants

Newborns and infants are more prone to choking on saliva while sleeping due to their underdeveloped swallowing reflexes. Their small airways can easily become obstructed by excess saliva, leading to potential choking incidents. It is important for caregivers to be vigilant and take necessary precautions to minimize this risk.

Toddlers and Older Children

As children grow older, their swallowing reflexes mature, reducing the likelihood of choking on saliva during sleep. However, it is still possible for toddlers and older children to experience occasional episodes if they have excessive saliva production or other underlying medical conditions. Monitoring their sleeping positions and implementing preventive measures can help mitigate these risks.

Signs and Symptoms Indicating a More Serious Issue if a Baby Consistently Chokes on Saliva During Sleep

Difficulty Breathing

If your baby consistently chokes on saliva during sleep accompanied by difficulty breathing or prolonged periods without breathing, it could indicate a more serious issue such as an obstructed airway. This requires immediate medical attention to ensure the safety and well-being of your baby.

Blue Lips or Face

If your baby’s lips or face turn blue during choking episodes, it suggests a lack of oxygen supply. This is a critical sign that necessitates prompt medical intervention.

Frequent Choking Episodes

Consistently experiencing choking episodes during sleep can be a cause for concern. If your baby repeatedly chokes on saliva despite implementing preventive measures, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying conditions that may require treatment.

The Influence of Breastfeeding or Bottle-Feeding Techniques on Babies Choking on Saliva While Sleeping

Breastfeeding Techniques

When breastfeeding, ensuring proper latch and positioning can help reduce the chances of babies choking on saliva while sleeping. A good latch ensures efficient milk flow and minimizes the risk of excess saliva pooling in the mouth. Additionally, breastfeeding in an upright or slightly reclined position can aid in better digestion and prevent regurgitation.

Bottle-Feeding Techniques

For bottle-fed babies, using an appropriate nipple size and shape can make a difference in preventing choking incidents during sleep. Opt for slow-flow nipples that allow for controlled milk flow, reducing the likelihood of excess saliva accumulation. Feeding your baby in an upright position and taking frequent breaks to burp them also helps prevent regurgitation and subsequent choking.

Avoid Overfeeding

Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it is important to avoid overfeeding your baby as it can lead to excessive saliva production and increase the risk of choking during sleep. Pay attention to your baby’s cues of fullness and offer smaller, more frequent feedings if necessary.

By following these preventive measures, understanding age-related risks, recognizing concerning signs and symptoms, and implementing appropriate feeding techniques, you can help reduce the likelihood of babies choking on saliva while they sleep.

In conclusion, it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the possibility of a baby choking on saliva while sleeping. Taking simple precautions such as placing the baby on their back during sleep, ensuring a clear airway, and monitoring their breathing can greatly reduce the risk of this occurrence.

How do I stop my baby from choking on spit up while sleeping?

Placing babies to sleep on their backs reduces the risk of choking on vomit compared to sleeping on their stomach or side. In fact, putting babies to sleep on their backs actually helps protect their airways.

Can SIDS happen from choking on spit up?

Concerns may arise among parents that babies who sleep on their backs may choke on spit-up or vomit. However, healthy infants and most babies with gastroesophageal reflux (GER) do not face an increased risk of choking while sleeping in this position.

Can SIDS happen when baby is awake?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) typically occurs when a baby is sleeping, although it can rarely happen when they’re awake. Parents can lower the chances of SIDS by not smoking during pregnancy or after the baby is born, and ensuring that the baby sleeps on their back. Information on quitting smoking can be found.

When is SIDS no longer a concern?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is less frequent in infants older than 8 months, but it is still important for parents and caregivers to practice safe sleeping habits and reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant mortality until the baby turns one. The majority of SIDS deaths, more than 90%, occur before the age of 6 months.

Should I be worried about baby choking on spit up?

It is common to have concerns about your baby choking if they spit up while lying on their back. However, rest assured that babies have natural mechanisms to prevent spit-up from entering their windpipe, even when they are in a back position.

What is the number 1 cause of SIDS?

Although the exact cause of SIDS is uncertain, medical professionals and researchers speculate that it may be linked to issues in a baby’s ability to wake up from sleep, detect low oxygen levels, or clear carbon dioxide from the blood. When infants sleep with their face down, they may inhale exhaled carbon dioxide again.

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