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What is Baby CPR?

By E. Fogarty
Updated May 17, 2024
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Baby CPR is an emergency lifesaving measure that should be used when a baby shows no signs of life, such as breathing or moving. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) uses artificial breathing to get oxygen into non-functioning lungs, and chest compressions to circulate oxygenated blood to the brain and other organs. The procedure can be used until emergency personnel can take over or the lungs and heart start functioning. Keeping oxygenated blood circulating to the brain can help prevent brain damage.

An infant may stop breathing and need baby CPR if he or she chokes, suffocates, or sustains a serious injury. Unlike adults, who most frequently need CPR because of a heart attack, babies typically need CPR because of a preventable accident. There is no substitute for being certified in baby CPR, and parents or people who spend significant amounts of time with young children should take a class. Many health and safety organizations, such as the American Heart Association in the US, hold classes in baby CPR.

If a baby stops breathing, has no pulse, or appears unconscious, time becomes very important. A baby can become brain damaged after only four minutes without oxygen. Death can occur shortly after if no action is taken.

A baby who appears unresponsive should first be checked for consciousness. If a gentle tap on the shoulder or foot elicits no response, the infant should be placed on a flat surface and baby CPR should be performed. If there are two people with the ailing infant, one should call for emergency help while the other assists the baby. If someone is alone in this situation, he or she should aid the infant for two minutes before calling for help.

The first step in baby CPR is that the baby’s airway should be opened. The baby’s head should be tilted back and chin lifted slightly. The baby should be observed for 10 seconds for signs of life. If there are none, then step two can be performed.

The next step in baby CPR is to give the infant two little breaths. The emergency responder should cover the baby’s nose and mouth with his or her mouth and exhale twice into the baby’s nose and mouth. Each exhale should last only one second and there should be a pause between each breath.

The next step in baby CPR is chest compressions. The baby should be lying on his or her back and the emergency responder should place two or three fingers between and slightly below the baby’s nipples. The chest should be smoothly pressed down half an inch to one inch. The baby should receive 30 compressions and then two more breaths. The emergency responder should continue the baby CPR — two breaths and 30 chest compressions — until emergency medical personnel arrive.

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