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How to Perform Infant CPR

Rebecca Desfosse
April 17, 2015

Being prepared for the worst is imperative if your infant is choking or unconscious. Here's a step-by-step guide on perform infant CPR so you can know in advance.

If your baby is choking, call 911 immediately.

If you simply want to learn more about infant CPR, good for you. You came to the right place.

All parents and sitters hope they'll never be put in the position of having to save their baby's life, but it can and does happen. Babies can choke on small objects, slip under water or get injured in an accident. Infant CPR can save an unconscious baby child's life and it's a relatively easy procedure once you know the steps.

"Anybody can do this procedure -- parents, grandparents or babysitters," says preparedness expert Jeffrey Pellegrino, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.

Here's how to perform CPR on babies younger than 1 year old:

How to Perform Infant CPR

  1. Assess Your Baby
    "The first thing you should do is identify the situation," says Dr. Carlos Reyes, a pediatrician and assistant medical director of the emergency department at Los Robles Hospital. Shake the infant and check for signs of breathing. If she doesn't respond and isn't struggling to breathe, CPR is necessary.
  2. Call 911
    Ask someone to call 911. If you're alone, give two minutes of care first and then call 911 yourself.
  3. Start 30 Chest Compressions
    Place the baby on a firm surface. Using your middle two fingers, find the center of the baby's chest, between his nipples. Use the pads of your fingers to press down about one and a half inches. "Do 30 chest compressions at the rate of 100 per minute, which is slightly faster than one per second," says Pellegrino.
  4. Give Two Rescue Breaths
    Tilt the baby's head back and cover her nose and mouth with your mouth. Gently exhale for one second. "Give just enough breath to make the baby's chest rise," says Pellegrino. If her chest doesn't rise, her airway may be obstructed and you should move on to first aid for choking, described below.
  5. Continue Until Help Arrives
    Repeat the sequence of 30 compressions and two breaths until help arrives. For a step-by-step demonstration of how to do infant CPR, check out the Red Cross's video.

Pellegrino notes that in a public space, such as a supermarket or day care, an AED (automated external defibrillator) may be available. Simply turn on the AED, apply the pads indicated for a pediatric or infant patient according to the instructions and the device will tell you the next steps to take.

How to Perform Infant First Aid for Choking
If your child's airway is obstructed, the steps are slightly different. If your child is struggling to breathe, but can't cry or cough, something may be blocking her airway. According to Pellegrino, signs such as coughing or gagging means that it's not a complete airway obstruction. If that's the case, encourage her to continue to cough to dislodge the object.

"If the baby is not coughing, it's a life-threatening emergency," says Pellegrino. If that's the case, have someone call 911. Then, perform infant CPR with back blows and chest thrusts per the Red Cross instructions. Repeat until the object becomes dislodged or help arrives.

3 Preventative Tips
Want to help lessen the chance of your baby choking? Here are 3 :

  1. Keep Play Areas Safe
    Toys should be age-appropriate for your baby, with no small parts or removable pieces. Objects that pose a choking hazard include marbles, coins, buttons, balloons, rubber bands, etc.
  2. Pay attention to food size. Foods such as grapes, hot dogs, popcorn and nuts pose a choking hazard, as do large chunks of meat, cheese or raw vegetables. According to Dr. Reyes, "To get an idea of the size of a child's airway, look at their pinky finger. If you cut something smaller than that size, it's much safer."
  3. Supervise your child around water. Babies can easily slip under water in the tub or in pools, but also watch out for buckets, pails or basins around the house or yard.

What's one of the most important things you can do though? Take an CPR and first aid class to learn and practice the proper techniques. According to Pellegrino, "With training you will feel more confident and comfortable to do the procedure."

Learn How to Get First Aid and CPR Training.

Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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