How to Resuscitate a Baby

Babies are susceptible to accidents that endanger their lives. Knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques can be vital in a situation that affects their breathing and heartbeat.
How to Resuscitate a Baby

Last update: 09 February, 2020

Child resuscitation techniques are techniques that no person ever wants to have to apply, although they’re crucial in case you need to resuscitate a baby. Knowing how to apply these procedures can mean the difference between life and death.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is a lifesaving procedure that’s applied when a person stops breathing or their heart stops beating. The procedure described here is not a substitute for a certified CPR training.

If you’re a parent or take care of babies, you should take a child resuscitation course. Also, the CPR administered to a baby changes as the child grows.

When do you need to administer CPR?

Babies are born explorers.

In their interest in learning about the world around them, they may be victims of accidents that endanger their lives. Therefore, it’s very important that parents or caregivers of infants minimize the risk factors around the baby. You also have to keep your eyes on them at all times.

Time is very important in case of an accident. When a baby is unconscious and not breathing, only 4 minutes without oxygen may cause permanent brain damage and they can die 4 to 6 minutes later.

A baby crying: resuscitate a baby

If a baby starts making strange noises or doesn’t make any noise at all, gags, or their skin starts to change color, they may be choking. You must act quickly and keep calm to be able to apply effective techniques to resuscitate your baby.

What can make the baby stop breathing or their heart to stop beating?

  • Choking on small objects like buttons, coins, toys, among others, or with food
  • Complications from a lung disease
  • Poisoning from food, medicines, or toxic substances
  • Choking in bath or pool water
  • Electric shock
  • Excessive bleeding from a wound
  • Head injury or another serious injury due to a fall

How to Resuscitate a Baby

1. Quickly assess the situation

If your baby is coughing, can’t breathe, and their skin changes color, you must help expel what’s blocking their airway. Coughing is the natural mechanism to clean the airway.

When the baby is unconscious, you should apply CPR so they can breathe again and so their heart starts beating again. Ask someone to call emergency services while you tend to the child.

If you’re alone, don’t neglect the baby to make the call. First, apply two minutes of CPR and then make the call without losing sight of the baby. You should do all these procedures carefully and gently.

2. If your baby is conscious, help them expel what’s choking them

  • Put them face up on your forearm. Support their head and neck with the same hand. Place your other hand and forearm over the child, so that they’re in the middle of your forearms.
  • With your other hand, use your thumb and forefinger to hold the baby’s jaw open. Turn them over and place them on their stomach, resting on your other forearm. Support the arm that’s holding the baby on your thigh. The baby’s head should be below your chest.
  • With your free hand, give five gentle but firm blows between their shoulder blades to try to dislodge the object. Hold their jaw firmly, enough to also hold their head and neck.
  • If the baby doesn’t expel the object, place your free hand (the one you hit them with) on their neck and support that arm on your baby’s spine. Flip them around while keeping your other hand and forearm on their chest.
    A person clearing out a baby's airway to resuscitate
  • With the hand you’re using to hold their head, use your thumb and forefinger to hold the baby’s jaw open. Support the arm that’s holding your baby’s back on your thigh. Make sure that the baby’s head is below your body.
  • Place the center of two or three fingers in the middle of your baby’s chest, right around the nipples. Push down about 3 to 4 centimeters. Release the pressure without lifting your fingers from the breastbone.
  • Do five gentle compressions. Then, repeat: flip the baby around and apply five back blows, then repeat chest compressions.
  • Keep on repeating until you dislodge the object or your baby begins to cough or breathe on their own.

3. If your baby is unconscious, apply CPR

  • Check if they’re unconscious. Shout their name. See if their chest moves and try to listen to their breathing.
  • Carefully place your baby on their back on a firm surface. With one hand, hold the baby’s forehead, tilting their head back. With the other hand, apply pressure on the baby’s chest pushing down 3 to 4 centimeters and then let the chest rise completely.
  • Do 30 compressions. Count the compressions quickly without pausing (“and 1, and 2, and 3” up to 30).
  • Open their airway. Lift their chin with one hand while pushing their head back with the other.
  • Check for breathing: Put your ear close to the baby’s nose and mouth, see if their chest is moving, and feel their breathing on your cheek.
  • If the baby is not breathing, cover the baby’s nose and mouth with your mouth. If you can’t cover both, just cover the nose and keep their mouth shut. Blow two breaths steadily into the baby (they should last a second) and watch their chest rise.
  • If the baby still isn’t breathing, check if you can see what’s obstructing their airway. If you can see it, try to take it out with your little finger.
  • Repeat the compressions and 2 breaths until the infant regains consciousness or help arrives.

What other precautions should be taken before applying CPR?

A person tilting a baby's head back to resuscitate

If there’s a possible spinal injury, you should avoid tilting the baby’s head and neck. To try to resuscitate a baby, you must move them with the help of another person.

Also, if the baby is bleeding, you should first control the bleeding before applying CPR.

You shouldn’t leave the baby alone if an accident has occurred. Calling emergency services is very important; the faster you do it, the better. But if you’re alone, remember to first apply two minutes of CPR and then make the call without neglecting the baby.

In case there’s an automated external defibrillator on hand, you may use it to resuscitate only in the case its suitable for infants. When you place this machine’s pads or paddles on the baby’s chest, they automatically check their heart rate. You have to follow the instructions accurately to resuscitate a baby with it.

This article may interest you:

What to Do if Your Child Drinks Bleach?

It might interest you...
How to Respond to a Cardiac Emergency
Step To Health
Read it in Step To Health
How to Respond to a Cardiac Emergency

Knowing how to respond to a cardiac emergency while waiting for medical help, can be the deciding factor in how it ends. Learn more!

  • De Avila Aburdene R, Castro Kukoc M. Relaciones con el inicio de la marcha, gateo, uso de andadores y accidentes. Revista de la sociedad boliviana de pediatría 2005; 44 (1): 11-14. Available at: Accessed 01/21, 2019.
  • Fernández-Bouzas A, Ortega-Avila R, Harmony T, Santiago E. Complicaciones de la asfixia perinatal en el recién nacido. Salud Mental, 2004; 27 (1): 28-37. Available at: Accessed 01/21, 2019.
  • Fernández Solar M, Fernández Solar I. Primeros auxilios de niños y bebés: actuación y tratamiento. Alicante: 3ciencias; 2015.