Why does my baby choke while bottle feeding – 7 reasons

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There are numerous reasons why a baby might choke while feeding from a bottle. These range from using the wrong feeding equipment to issues such as acid reflux. Understanding these reasons and how to prevent them can help safeguard your baby during feedings. While this can sound scary, don’t worry, we are here to help you navigate through it. Making sure you're knowledgeable about these variables can greatly reduce any risk.

Today's blog covers the 7 primary reasons why little ones may choke during bottle feeding, including incorrect use of nipples, wrong feeding positions, prop feeding, stopping of sucking, milk spilling from the side, extreme hunger, and blockage of nostrils. Grasping these reasons is vital for your baby's feeding safety. Read on for preventative measures for these issues and essential actions to take if your baby ever chokes.

Prevention is key to ensure your baby's safety while bottle-feeding. This article provides valuable advice that can help prevent your baby from choking on milk. You need to understand the correct way to feed your baby. Make sure to read this article in detail.

You will also learn how to prevent this and also what to do incase your baby drinks milk too fast and chokes on the bottle.

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Why does baby choke while feeding and what can we do?

Here are some 7 reasons why this happens

1.Using incorrect Nipples for Bottle feeding

baby chokes because of wrong nipples used

One of the most common reasons a baby chokes while being fed from a bottle is that milk or formula flows out at too fast of a rate for the baby to swallow.

If baby drinks milk too fast and chokes bottle, then rate of feeding has to be controlled.

If baby keeps choking on milk bottle, you can try the Evenflo Feeding Balance wide neck nipples, which is designed to give a gulp-free flow rate.


2.Feeding in the wrong position

Babies may gag when drinking from a bottle because of the positioning.

Holding your infant horizontally while bottle feeding can lead to a faster flow of milk making it harder for the baby to regulate the flow.

Try to hold your baby in an upright position while feeding to avoid choking.

3.Prop Feeding

Using a prop to hold the bottle in place during feeding can lead to choking.

When using a prop, your baby can’t control the flow of milk and the milk will continue to flow even if your baby isn’t ready to swallow. You may not hear your baby choking,if you aren’t nearby.

Avoid using a propped-up bottle as far as possible.

4.Baby stops sucking

Occasionally, you may find that your baby stops sucking on the teat or spits out their formula or milk while they are receiving a bottle.

You must remove the teat otherwise the milk will fill the baby’s mouth which could lead to choking.

Last update on 2024-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Milk or Formula dribbling from side

A baby may choke while feeding from a bottle because they will not open their mouth wide enough.

This can also happen if the milk dribbles out of the side of their mouth as opposed to going in straight.

To prevent this issue, make sure that you have your child’s head tilted back slightly

6.Baby too hungry and impatient

The baby is too hungry and gobbles down so much milk that they are unable to breathe.

Make sure you avoid keeping your baby hungry for long periods.

Try to maintain reasonable hours between feedings.

7. Nostrils get clogged

The nostrils can become clogged with drool around the mouthpiece during feeding.

This causes the milk to run down the baby’s throat and pool in their stomach while they continue to try and breathe, which can lead to a condition called “aspiration pneumonia.

To avoid this from happening, use drool bibs or burp cloths that cover up the front of their chest.

8. Acid Reflux issues

Your little one may have gastroesophageal reflux disease which is one of the medical conditions that babies have.

It’s a condition in which acid from the baby’s stomach comes up into their esophagus and causes discomfort or pain.

This causes Acid Reflux.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help treat it.

You will have to consult your Doctor for suggested treament.

What is choking? What exactly happens when your baby chokes

Choking is the coughing spasm and sputtering that happens when liquids or solids go into the windpipe.

Generally, it is temporary and harmless.

However, when it occurs because of ‘bottle propping‘, the baby can turn blue, or even become limp or pass out, which can be serious.

Milk choking can occur if the baby takes more milk into its mouth than it can swallow.

The excess milk can spill into the airway and block the flow of air, causing choking

How do I stop my baby from choking while bottle feeding?

You can try out the following methods to help with this problem

1.Choose the right nipples & bottles

It is very tough choosing the right bottle and nipple for your baby for feeding your baby, considering the wide range of options available.  You can ask your friends for recommendations, checkout product reviews online, and do a lot of research, but ultimately it is down to trial and error to find the best combination.

Your baby can help you to find the best bottle-nipple combination. Your baby may not be too choosy and is happy with any bottle -nipple combo while others may want a particular  nipple shape or bottle brand.

Use slow flow bottle teats to help prevent the flow of too much milk. You can read more about feeding bottles and nipples that are available in the market here.

Check out these top selling bottles- nipples which most young mothers love.

If they choke even after slowing down the feeding rate ,consult your pediatrician to check for any anatomical reasons why your baby is having a problem swallowing.

Don’t panic when you see your baby gagging or choking during feeding.

2.Gaps between Feeds

Keep gaps between feeds and also break the suction periodically to give your baby a “breather.”

It’s not uncommon for newborns to make gurgling sounds while feeding because of air passing through their saliva or refluxed milk as they gulp in air.

This will pass soon as your infants starts to swallow more frequently preventing the saliva build up in their mouth.

3. Correct Tilt while holding bottle

Do not tilt the bottom of the bottle too high and also do not use a nipple with large holes for a newborn.

This increases the rate of milk flow and can lead to involuntary increases in intake and cause further problems like acid reflux.

Infact, when bottle-feeding your newborn try using a paced bottle feeding method where you keep the bottle horizontal and the baby can exercise control by actively sucking out milk as per their own pace.

They can take a break whenever they wish and are not forced to swallow more than they can handle.

This can also increase the Risk of aspiration.

4.Take short feeding breaks

Feed your baby more often or give smaller doses during bottle feeding.

5.Do not lay baby on back

Reduce your baby’s chances of choking by not laying her on her back during feeding.

This reduces the chance the milk will flow into her mouth when she isn’t sucking.

Hold her in a near-sitting position with the bottle slightly tilted downward ( enough for the nipple to fill with milk and not air).

She can then feed at her own pace.

6. Make them Burp

Babies always swallow some air, even if you follow all the right methods.

You must help them to get rid of that air.

Hold the baby upright over your shoulder or on your lap with your hand under their chin.

Pat the middle of their back gently until they burp.

If the baby is eating happily, don’t stop them if they are not reay! Watch for signs that your baby is full.

7.Avoid Prop Feeding

DO NOT use props to hold up the feeding bottle while you are away from the baby

7.If you have multiple caregivers who assist in feeding, we must educate these people properly about all the above points

What to do when your baby chokes

So, what can a parent do in this situation?

What do you do if your baby keeps choking on milk bottle?

Do you first call paramedics or rush to the ER yourself for help? Or do you try to treat the child yourself?

Depending on how your baby is choking their treatment will vary. While choking in children cannot be prevented, a parent must know what to do at that moment, which could make a huge difference to the outcome.

As per Dr Hennie Smith, Netcare Krugersdorp Hospital,“Witnessing a child choking can be very distressing, causing many parents or caregivers to panic and in some instances completely freeze up if they don’t know what to do.

That is why it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with what actions to take should you be present during a choking incident”.

David Stanton, Head: Clinical Leadership at Netcare 911, emphasises the importance of keeping calm and acting quickly.

Speed is of the essence in any choking situation. Being able to dislodge a blockage quickly greatly minimises the risk of further complications. However, never try to remove a foreign object unless you can actually see it, as you can run the risk of pushing it further into the airway.”

Therefore, as soon as you notice a baby or younger child is unable to cry, cough or talk, it is likely that something is blocking their airway.

They may even turn bright red or blue.

It is important to keep calm and think rationally about what you will need to do to best assist the child.

The sooner paramedics are called, the sooner they will arrive on scene and the greater the chance of a positive outcome,” says Mr. Stanton.

Your child may require urgent treatment for aspiration.

 Netcare 911’s guide has given the following information for assisting a child or baby that may be choking:

“Remember, it is essential that emergency medical services are summoned as soon as possible when someone is choking because if these steps do not work, choking can very quickly result in the person losing consciousness and suffocating”. 

What is aspiration in babies and children?

Aspiration is when a substance enters the airway or the lungs by accident.

It may be food or liquid.

This can cause serious problems, such as pneumonia, if you’re not careful.

Aspiration can happen if a person has trouble swallowing.

This is also called dysphagia.

It can be a serious condition.

It can also happen if your baby suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

In this condition, the contents of the baby’s stomach come back up into the throat.

What to do if baby coughing while feeding bottle?

If your baby is coughing while feeding, it could be due to a number of reasons. Many of the reasons are the same as when the baby chokes. However here are some reasons for the baby coughing while feeding bottle


Some babies are prone to reflux (a condition where the stomach contents come back up into the throat), which can cause them to cough while feeding.

Try giving your baby smaller, more frequent feedings. 

Milk too cold or too hot

If the milk is too cold, the baby will have difficulty swallowing it and this can cause him to cough.

If the milk is too hot, it can burn his mouth and throat which will also lead to coughing.

It is important that you check the temperature of your milk before giving it to your baby.

Baby not getting air

The most common reason is that the baby is not getting enough air while sucking on the nipple or bottle.

What can you do?

There are a few things you can do to try to solve the problem. Here are some tips to help your baby breathe more easily:

– Make sure that your baby is positioned at a 45 degree angle when feeding. This will prevent their airways from collapsing and allow them to suck more easily.

– Try using smaller mouthfuls of milk or water until you find one that works for them.

– Hold the bottle at an angle so that it’s easier for your baby to drink from it.

If that doesn’t help, you might want to consult with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant about how best to proceed.


While choking is a seemingly harmless event and happens frequently, it is important to take steps to prevent it as it can endanger the life of your child.

You as a parent must educate yourself and be prepared to be able to take the right action when needed. Your child’s life is invaluable.

We hope you found this article helpful.

Safe feeding for your child!!

Last update on 2024-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Carrie Walters
Carrie Walters is a young mother of Nina and Tom, who along with her husband Jake is passionate about helping moms and families find modern solutions to common parenting and lifestyle questions. Together with a team of real moms and medical experts, this young couple share sound advice and proven tips to help make your life easier. They manage this blog along with other blogs and Youtube channels on similar topics