All new parents should obtain CPR certification, if possible. Infant CPR classes are generally inexpensive, and depending on where you live, you can find a convenient one through a local hospital, the American Red Cross, or your healthcare provider.
It’s important to understand the difference between CPR in infants and adults. More than 90 percent of infants who stop breathing still have a healthy heartbeat. This is different from adults, many of whom stop breathing because of a heart attack. As a result, cardiac resuscitation (the chest compressions that keep the heart pumping) are de-emphasized in infant CPR and instead rescuers focus on mouth-to-mouth breathing.
It’s impossible to learn infant CPR without practice. Sign up for a course and get certified.
Basic infant CPR practices include:
- Check for responsiveness. If you think your baby is unconscious, flick the bottom of their feet to see if there is any reaction.
- Call 9-1-1. Ideally, if someone else is present, that person can call and remain on the line while you administer CPR. You will need to stay on the phone with 9-1-1 the whole time. If you are alone, the general rule of thumb is to administer two minutes of CPR first and then call 9-1-1, stay on the line, and go back to CPR.
- Lay the baby on a firm, flat surface and then open the baby’s airway by tilting the head back slightly. Lift the chin and check for breathing. If your baby is not breathing, administer two breaths (“rescue breaths”). To administer a rescue breath, pinch the nose, then place your whole mouth over your baby’s and breathe into the mouth. You want to form a seal over baby’s mouth. You also want to blow for about one second and make sure that the chest clearly rises. On very small babies, you can cover both mouth and nostrils with your mouth—the point is to get a firm seal.
After two rescue breaths, if your baby does not have a heartbeat or a pulse in the carotid artery (in the neck), do 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. On a younger baby, this will mean making sure they are on a flat, solid surface, like the floor, and putting your index and middle fingers at the center of their breastbone. You do not have to press hard; your fingers should compress about one and a half inches deep. Compressions should be done quickly—faster than one per second. On a toddler, you should place one hand over the other and use the heel of your hand to compress the center of the breastbone.
Do not stop the cycle of 30 compressions followed by two breaths until 9-1-1 rescue help arrives or your baby starts to respond.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019
- If possible, all new parents should obtain CPR certification.
- More than 90 percent of infants who stop breathing still have a healthy heartbeat.
- Check for responsiveness, and call 9-1-1.
- Use rescue breaths and quick chest compressions by using two fingers at the center of the breastbone.