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Food & weaning information

The thought of introducing solids to your child with OA/TOF can seem daunting but this information should help you to feel prepared, and, along with your healthcare team, help guide you through the process.

Before you start introducing food, check with your healthcare team when/if they feel that your child is ready to start. If your child was born preterm (before 37 weeks gestation), they are likely to be ready to start solids between 4 -6  months corrected age (that is 4 – 6 months after their due date). Children born at term are likely to be ready to start solids at around 6 months of age

The scary bit first.

You maybe worried about your child coughing/choking.

In fact most parents report that their child has had an episode of food getting stuck in the oesophagus. This is known as a food bolus obstruction, or you will often hear other families referring to it as a ‘stickie’.

What causes ‘stickies’?

Children with OA/TOF may have one or a combination of the following:

  • Oesophageal dysmotility – Food that is chewed and swallowed is normally propelled down the oesophagus to the stomach by a wave-like contraction of the circular muscle in the wall of the oesophagus. This process is known as peristalsis.

    In children born with OA/TOF, this process is often disrupted. The oesophageal muscle contraction is uncoordinated, which can lead to food moving back up the oesophagus towards the mouth. This is known as oesophageal dysmotility or dysphagia. It can occur for years following surgery, but mostly gets better with time.

  • Oesophageal stricture – this is a narrowing in the oesophagus, usually at the site of the anastomosis (the join). Signs of this developing would be a  gradual decrease in feeding ability. You may notice your child struggling or having more ‘stickies’ with lumps/thicker purees, before then struggling with thinner purees. If you think your child may be developing a stricture you should contact your surgical team for advice.Click here for more information regarding strictures

Some parents find back slaps help their child to clear the blockage, others report they just have to calm their child and reassure them whilst they wait for it to pass or for the child to cough and vomit it back up themselves.

There is no particular right/wrong way but you will find what works best with your child.


Choking occurs if an object lodges in the throat or windpipe and blocks the flow of air. Most stickies do not result in choking as your child is able to breathe.

However, if choking does occur, the most important thing is to be prepared, and try to remain calm so as not to frighten your child. (See below for some guides from St. John Ambulance for first aid advice on the choking baby.)

The important thing to remember is that you are not alone.

As well as your healthcare team, the whole TOFS community is here to support you too. We offer free support through our pastoral support team, our private Facebook group and via our informative videos and publications.

Join TOFS to find out more.

The Soft Food Recipe

Buy the book

The Soft Food Recipe Book is packed to the brim with easy, tasty dishes to cook for your family.


First Aid

Baby choking poster

Step by step instructions for what to do when a baby is choking.

Baby Resuscitation (CPR) poster

Step by step instructions for performing CPR when a baby is unresponsive and not breathing normally.

Would you like more information?

Published by TOFS, The TOF Book is the must have guide for anyone affected by, or caring for someone with OA/TOF.

With contributions from medical experts, the TOF Book contains chapters on every aspect of OA/TOF and VACTERL condition, from infancy to adulthood all presented in an easy-to-understand format.