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My daughter choked on mango one month into baby-led weaning (and yes, I do mean choked: reddening, wide-eyed, silent). We banged the mango out and she was fine. I however, am far from fine.

I have been sliding back into purees since. She feeds herself (pincer or spoon), but the food is still chunky, over-the-counter puree; soft lumps like rice or grits; or baby fingernail size bits like cheese. I have been unable to get passed this fear of a choking encore.

I am frustrated trying to find support for my particular case. The "official" BLW sites go on at length about the difference between choking and gagging, so it's hard to separate good information on "how to prevent choking by appropriate sizing" from all the noise of "that's NOT choking". Seriously people, if you can hear it, don't fear it. You will know choke face.

So here's the deal. 11 month old, who has choked once, who still has no teeth, who shoves as much as she can in at once. Exactly what shape and consistency should "sticks" or "pieces" be? Can I get concrete examples of banana, avocado, gourds, chicken, and any other foods you think would be good?

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I feel for you, our baby started nearly choking on watermelon and I was traumatized for a while myself. Out baby also shoved everything as much as she can in her mouth. We actually stuck with level 3 baby food which has minor chunks and stay away with anything that has solid meat chunks as she is 18mo and still has a hard time eating it even with teeth. I would stick to feeding them myself with a spoon unless it was the little snacks that disolve easy. –  Tony Apr 8 at 14:22

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That sounds like my one year old. He has a few teeth - 4 of them - but really doesn't make much use of them; incisors aren't that helpful at proper chewing (and he only got the bottom two a month or two ago). He's been shoving food into his face since he was 4 months old, never liked purees. Definitely have had a bunch of choking incidents, although all but one were quickly handled by him (undoubtedly some were 'gagging', but some were definitely choking). The one that we had to help with wasn't too bad, I think a piece of chicken.

Speaking to the psychological factor, I don't really have a good suggestion; you may have to just figure it out yourself with some time. You're a good parent, you were watching very carefully, and you took care of business. If it happens again, you'll do the same. Your baby will learn how to handle solid foods, but the only way she'll learn is by having them and working it out. On the other hand, if you delay things a few weeks, she's not going to be any worse for the wear (as long as it's not several months).

In terms of strategies for the baby, I recommend limiting the amount of food on her plate/tray. Sometimes our youngest does the same thing - overstuffs his face - and we generally remove his food from his tray at that point until he slows down, and then add a bit back at a time. You also could introduce the fork, if you haven't yet; our 12 month old can use a fork more-or-less, and really enjoys it. It serves the dual purpose of taking food to the mouth AND limiting how much can go up at once - especially if you let her feed herself with it rather than helping too much.

Foodwise, the foods you listed sound good (except for gourd, I don't know that I know what that is like). Banana and avocado are excellent, good sources of nutrition both (particularly avocado). I would give relatively large pieces of either; as long as the banana is pretty ripe, she can probably have that whole, and treat it like a lollipop; or if it's easier, cut it in half lengthwise. Avocado we usually slice in thin strips, sort of the size of sliced chicken breast on a chicken caesar salad.

Meats we try to cook in a way that they end up moist and fall apart tender. Braised beef or chicken is probably best, or a pot roast cooked in its juice. Chicken also can be poached at length. In any of those dishes, the meat should end up so tender that you can cut it with a fork, and it turns stringy. Cut it into one inch or so lengths, and use the fork to break it up some. Hamburger works very well - cut it up finely with a fork, make sure it's not overcooked. Crumble is what your'e aiming for. Lunchmeats also work pretty well (she's old enough now not to worry too much about listeria); one inch squares are probably about right if it's thin-sliced or shaved, just don't let it get too piled up.

Breads are also good options. Slice them with no crust if the crust is hard (otherwise don't worry) into long strips. If needed, give one at a time. Bread is very easily gummed.

Other things that might work if supervised, and might especially work when she does teethe, are vegetables, whole or in large slices. Cucumber for example, if you can get a mini-cucumber like Costco around us carries, are great - they are teething helpers AND they eventually fall apart into mush rather than being a chocking risk. Whole carrots or whole celery, same.

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Thanks for the excellent concrete advice, Joe. My daughter had a whole ripe banana this morning, progressively peeled so that one inch or show of flesh showed at a time -- and of course she was fine, loved it. We're having nachos tonight, so I'll do the ground beef and avocado slices for her. Seems I'm the one taking "baby steps" now. –  bishop Apr 3 at 14:57

I think Joe has answered the bulk or your question so I won't repeat his answers, but I think it's worth mentioning that choking can happen irrelevant of your chosen weaning method. So even if you decided to revert to spoon feeding pureé you're not going to completely cut out any risk. If baby is unbothered by what happened, you just have to get on with it. :)

In terms of recommended foods... for me the advantage of going down the BLW route was basically feeding baby what I eat: so curries, spaghetti bolognese, pies, puddings, the full works. The only thing you need to avoid is whole nuts and honey. If you stick to strips and sticks you're just limiting yourself.

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We started our little one with baby-lead weaning when she was about 6 months old. We gave her soft fruit (kiwi, mango, watermelon) cut into pieces she could hold in her hand. Sometimes the mango had skin on it, sometimes it didn't.

She had the kinds of problems you'd expect, some gagging, choking a couple of times, but she just loved eating proper food, so we never stopped. We just made sure we were watching her at all times when she was eating and that we knew what to do when she was choking.

In the end, this is how she learned to eat properly. Now 2 years old, she'll still do something silly like put too much ham in her mouth, and she'll almost choke, but magically she'll manage to spit the whole mouthful out.

So my advice is to persist, and keep an eye on your little one.

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+1 Indeed, "keep calm and carry on". Thanks for your perspective Dave, really appreciate it! –  bishop Apr 4 at 19:17

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