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PSA: My Baby Was Choking. Thankfully, I was (Sort Of) Prepared

We all hope we’ll never be put in the position of having to save our baby’s life, but it could happen to anyone. It happened to me last week. While feeding Cheerios to my 11-month-old twin girls, Clementine started choking. Thankfully, I had taken an infant CPR class before the girls were born, and remembered the basic steps for a choking baby: If it’s a partial obstruction (coughing and/or breathing), let them work it out. However, if the airway is completely obstructed, immediately start alternating between back slaps and chest thrusts. This was clearly a total obstruction — Clemmy wasn’t coughing or breathing. As I jumped into action, Clemmy attempted to stick her little hand into her mouth. My technique wasn’t textbook, but after a few solid back blows, a cereal cluster flew out of Clemmy’s mouth. In the aftermath, we were both in tears.

Even though I was able to save her life, I found myself consumed with guilt. If she had gone unconscious, I would not have been prepared to perform CPR, which is way more technical than back slaps. The CPR instructor had advised us to review the outline every fews months, but I hadn’t looked at it since the girls were born. I could blame my neglect on any number of reasons: I was overwhelmed, it felt like homework, I lost the paperwork, etc. To be honest, I didn’t want to think about my babies dying. No one does — it’s paralyzing. On the other hand, CPR training greatly increases infant survival rates. If Clementine had needed CPR, and I was unprepared, I’d never be able to forgive myself.

To find a class in your area, visit the Red Cross website or call 800-733-2767 (800-RED-CROSS).

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