Administering CPR to an Infant

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Harvard Medical School
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Administering CPR to an Infant

Guiding Your Child Through The Infant Year
Injury and Illness Prevention
Administering CPR to an Infant
Administering CPR to an Infant
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a basic lifesaving technique used when breathing stops and/or the heart no longer beats.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Administering CPR to an Infant

CPR — cardiopulmonary resuscitation — is a basic lifesaving technique used when breathing stops and/or the heart no longer beats. In children, CPR is rarely needed for heart problems. More often it is needed for breathing problems due to choking, smoke inhalation, lung disease such as asthma, accidents or drowning.

CPR is most successful when started as quickly as possible, but only when it's necessary. It should only be performed when a baby is not breathing or circulating blood adequately.

To enroll in a CPR course, contact your local office of the American Red Cross or American Heart Association. While this article cannot take the place of a CPR course, here is an overview of the basic steps in performing CPR on an infant:

  • Assess and get help
    The first few seconds should be used to figure out whether the child is unresponsive. To do this, call out the child's name, clap, gently tap his shoulder, or rub his back or chest and watch for any reaction. If the child is not breathing and you get no response, shout for help and proceed to CPR. If you are not alone, have someone else dial 911.
  • Position the baby
    Place the baby on his back on a flat surface such as a table or the floor; otherwise hold the baby over your thigh. If the child has injured himself, be careful when moving him. It is always best to support the head and neck.
  • Perform chest compressions
    Imagine a horizontal line between the infant’s nipples. Place two fingers of one hand just below the line about ½ an inch at the center of the chest. Keep the other hand on the infant’s forehead to keep the head tilted back. Gently press down and compress on the infant’s chest about 1.5 inches (~4cm or 1/3-1/2 the depth of the chest). Count aloud and give 30 chest compressions. You should compress at a rate of at least 100 times per minute — or about five compressions every three seconds. The compressions should be fast and hard with no pausing. Between compressions, the hands are lifted off the chest to let the chest rise completely.
  • Open the airway
    Place one hand on the infant's forehead and the other under his chin. Slightly tilt the head back to open the airway by lifting the chin up and out while pushing down on the forehead; an infant's head should not be tilted as much as an adult's.Breath
  • Check for breathing
    In no more than 10 seconds, turn your face toward the infant's chest and look for chest movement. Place your ear and cheek over the infant's nose and mouth to listen for or feel any breathing. If you can see, hear or feel the baby breathing, help him maintain an open airway but do not start rescue breathing. If the baby is not breathing, begin rescue breathing.
  • Perform rescue breathing
    If the infant is not breathing, keep the chin lifted head tilted. Take a deep breath then place your mouth over the baby's nose and mouth, making a tight seal, or place your mouth over the baby's nose and hold the mouth shut. Then give two slow breaths (each about one second long). Watch for the baby's chest to rise with each breath, and end the breath once you see the chest rise. If the chest does not rise, re-position the head to make sure the baby's airway is open, and again try to give a second breath. If the chest still does not rise, the infant may be choking.Child's brachial
  • CPR Child
  • Repeat 30 compressions and 2 breaths
    Give 2 rescue breaths after every 30 compressions. Count out loud as you do this: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., breathe."
  • Call for help after 2 minutes 

    If, after two minutes of CPR (5 cycles of 30 compressions and two breaths), the infant still does not have normal breathing, coughing, or movement, leave the infant if you are alone and call 911 or your local emergency number. Resume CPR as soon as possible after calling for help.

  • Repeat until the infant recovers or help arrives
    Continue chest compressions and rescue breathing until the infant recovers or help arrives.

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Last updated August 20, 2014

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