23 Shocking Things Babies Have Swallowed

There is an alarming display at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Canada. It contains foreign objects that have been removed from children’s tummies and air passages. It’s enough to make you shudder. No doubt, these kinds of displays exist throughout the world.

Babies are curious and very oral creatures. This means that almost everything they encounter will end up in their mouths. Mouthing is a very important part of infant development and it’s completely normal, but it means caregivers must be extra vigilant. When small objects aren’t tucked away and we turn our heads for an instant, they run the risk of ending up in little mouths, or worse, little tummies. Some items will pass, but others must be extracted.

This list itemizes some of these very things. It is a startling reminder that we can never be too careful. If you suspect your baby or child has swallowed anything foreign, head to the emergency room immediately.

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23 Safety Pins

Before disposable diapers, swallowed safety pins were much more common than they are today. Thankfully, this trend is tapering off but you’ll find many on the Sick Kids’ display wall.

22 Jingle Bells

We are referring here to those little brass bells that adorn Christmas decorations. Babies are naturally attracted to anything shiny, jingly, and small. These little bells are easy to swallow.

21 Magnets

The risk to your child is lower if they swallow only one magnet, but if more than one is ingested, they can stick together in the digestive track, making them harder to pass. Keep magnets out of reach or throw them away. It’s not worth the danger.

20 Jewelry

Small items like earrings, charms and rings will pique your baby’s curiosity. Each of these has been swallowed by babies at some point. Simply hold a baby to see how they reach for your sparkly and dangly adornments. Keep your jewelry box out of reach and pack your usual jewelry away until the baby is older.

19 Lego

A baby with older siblings will likely be exposed to Lego early. As parents, we all know what it feels like to step on errant Lego pieces (insert expletive) but the bigger issue is that Lego is a serious choking and swallowing hazard for babies. 

18 Nails

Yes, we are referring to carpentry nails. Believe it or not, sometimes a nail can pass through without harming a baby, but often a scan is necessary to determine this.

17 Batteries

We have all read and heard horror stories associated with babies ingesting button batteries. In fact, this is one of the items ER staff say they will never have in their homes. Many times, the batteries have passed without incident, but this isn’t always the case. They can wreak havoc on tiny bodies.

16 Coins

Coins are swallowed more often now than ever before. The theory is that previous generations took better care of their coins than we do today, tucking them away as valuables. If the coin passes through the airway, it will likely pass through the other end in 3-5 days.

15 Buttons

Buttons are the perfect size to fit in a little mouth. Make sure you tuck your sewing supplies away and tighten any loose buttons on clothing. Think twice before dressing your baby in anything with buttons.

14 Cigarette Butts

Yuck. Hopefully, your baby has no opportunity to get a hold of one of these nasty little guys. If they are around, keep them out of reach. There isn’t a lot you can do if one is swallowed except to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

13 Dirt

Forget dirt outside, potted plants are a commonly overlooked hazard for babies. If your baby can reach the dirt in your plant pots, they are going to taste-test it. You’ll be surprised when they may go back for more. Best to keep indoor plants well out of reach.

12 Keys

Babies love to play with key rings. They jingle, they are shiny, they contain interesting shapes, and they are clearly of value to adults. Babies have been known to swallow keys, big and small, so avoid letting them play with them altogether.

11 Marbles

Marbles were more common in years past when the fancy toys of today didn’t exist. That said, with the popularity of marble runs for older kids, they are present in many homes. Put them away when you are baby proofing.

10 Crayons

At some point, a baby or toddler will be introduced to crayons. We hope they’ll scribble with them, but the reality is, they are just as likely to take a bite.

9 Small Toys

There is a fairly well-documented case of a baby boy who swallowed a small SpongeBob SquarePants toy. The case has a happy ending and the boy is fine. Not only do we need to consider small toys as a swallowing/choking hazard, we need to be wary of the parts from which they are made.

8 Soothers

Swallowing a soother seems impossible, but it has happened with very serious results. Luckily, soothers contain holes in their bases to enable air to pass through them should one get lodged in a baby’s throat. This is one item that when swallowed necessitates calling 911 immediately as the chances of it going all the way down are very slim.

7 Beads

Naturally beads are the perfect size to be swallowed by babies. They will likely pass without incident, but keep an eye out for their exit to be sure.

6 Dog Food

Babies love anything that is off-limits and they will be fascinated by what their four-legged companion eats. Your baby likely shares with your dog, so it’s only fair the reverse happens too, right?

5 Pebbles

Beware of pebbles in gardens, stones in playgrounds, and the decorative accents used in your home. Watch carefully for the pebbles or small rocks to pass through, as infection is a concern.

4 Bathwater

Drinking bathwater is tough to control, but your baby will understand why you tried to stop it when they get older. Their bums are sitting in it, and they may very well have peed in it too. Gross! Plus, it really can’t taste great, can it?

3 Play-Doh

Things could be worse than ingesting Play-Doh. Although it tastes nasty, it is primarily made up of salt, water, and flour. In all likelihood, your little one will be turned off by the taste, but many a child has swallowed it.

2 Thumb Tacks

Ouch. This is another item found in the Sick Kids’ display. Thumb tacks can pass through without incident, but the emergency room is the best place to determine the appropriate course of action.

1 Monopoly Game Pieces

Monopoly pieces have been found in a baby’s stool. Something tells us that property values plummeted after this development.

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