This afternoon I was sitting next to my daughter on the couch while she was having a snack. All of a sudden she started dribbling a stream of brown liquid out of her mouth. We have taught her that when she gets into trouble she should spit out whatever might otherwise cause her to choke. I quickly put my hand under her chin to help (as we always do) and was startled to catch first one, then three, and eventually 13 cinnamon almonds. They were easy to count because not one of them had been chewed. (I know, I was sitting next to her without actually supervising her – I was talking to her dad, but 13? Who thought that was going to happen?!)
The kid crowds her mouth, to say the least. This might be an excellent skill for college, when kids show off by completing in such shanegans as stuffing as many marshmallows into their mouths as possible, but I tend to think of it as a Bad Habit. I’m not really sure how to break it either, other than putting one thing at a time onto her plate and waiting until she chews and swallows.
As I was grumpily washing the cinnamon spit off of my hands, I thought back to when I was a kid. I used to choke quite a lot. I have vivid memories of people sticking their fingers down my throat to pull out strings of orange skins (my mom should have probably started peeling the orange segments, but more than likely I was a mouth crowder like my daughter). I remember the worst thing I choked on like it was yesterday – a paper clip. I don’t recall putting it into my mouth, but I remember having it there, and wondering what would happen if I swallowed it (my poor parents – I was always wondering what would happen if I did something dangerous, and sometimes my curiosity would get the better of me).
The next thing you know, I was not able to breathe. I was fairly certain I was going to die, when my dad walked into the room – he could tell that I was in trouble, and he asked me what I was choking on. Of course it’s impossible to speak when you are truly choking, but I struggled to grunt something out. He did not use the Heimlich (although he has done this to other people and saved them, and I’m sure it had been invented by this time), maybe because he thought I was too little. He DID put his fingers to the back of my throat and was able to grab the paper clip with the edge of his nails, saving my life. So, my dad is a hero, and I was a foolish little girl.
I shared this story with GB and Little Mama today – part of me was afraid it would give her ideas (she occasionally tries to eat paper, but other than that, food is all she packs into her mouth), but I wanted her to know how dangerous it is to choke. If my dad hadn’t rescued me when he did, I would not be alive today, and neither would she. At least she is very good about spitting things out rather than attempting to swallow them (the other night she spat out almost half a safely-sliced hot dog – yikes).
We didn’t punish her, and never have for spitting things out when she has overdone it (as I have mentioned, it’s safer than the alternative). So what to do? What has worked for other parents with mouth crowder kids?