CPR For Babies And Children

Every parent hopes they'll get through life without ever having to administer life-saving CPR to their own child or to someone else's. Most of us will be lucky enough never to have to face this life-and-death situation. However, it is every parent's duty to be prepared and know what to do should the worst happen. The instructions on this page are not intended as a substitute for CPR training given by medical professionals. Ask your health care provider where you can take CPR classes. Knowing what to do will help you to stay calm and give you a fighting chance of saving that child.

What Is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. You may be familiar with the term from TV programs and movies. It's also sometimes referred to just as 'resuscitation' or 'mouth-to-mouth'. CPR is used to treat cardiopulmonary arrest, which is what happens when the heart ('cardio') and the lungs ('pulmonary') stop working. In short, someone has stopped breathing, their heart is no longer beating and their only chance of survival may be immediate intervention with CPR. CPR generally involves repeated, regular compressions with your hands on the victim's chest in order to re-start their heartbeat, as well as mouth-to-mouth breathing to stimulate the lungs. In hospitals, electric shocks are also administered to kick start the heart, and/or a mask is placed over the patient's mouth and nose to inflate the lungs. Because ordinary parents don't have this type of equipment at home, we are going to focus on chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Resuscitating Children And Infants

For the purposes of CPR, a 'child' is considered to be over one year old and an 'infant' is a baby under one year. You do not necessarily resuscitate a child or infant in the same way you would an adult. There are even differences between children's resuscitation and infants' resuscitation; these will be explained later. You should only ever attempt to resuscitate your child or baby if professional medical help is not available. If a child or infant is not breathing, you should begin CPR and continue for one minute BEFORE calling the emergency services - IF you are alone. If someone is there with you, have them call an ambulance right away.


The ABC stands for AIRWAY - BREATHING - CIRCULATION. These are the three essential stages of CPR and should be administered in that order.

Airway - Stage One

- First you need to clear the child or infant's airway. Put him on his back, put your hand on his forehead and with two fingers under his chin, tilt the head back and lift the chin.

- Check his mouth and throat for obstructions like vomit or food. Use your index finger to scope out anything you find. Use a sideways, sweeping motion of the finger; otherwise you might shove an obstruction further down.

- Clearing the airway may spontaneously re-start breathing. Now spend no more than five seconds checking for signs of breathing. Is the child's or infant's chest rising and falling? Listen for breathing with your ear to his mouth and nose. Put your hand under his nose; does it become warm and moist as he breathes out?

- If the child or infant is still not breathing, you must move on to stage two.

Breathing - Stage Two

- This is the mouth-to-mouth breathing stage of CPR. With the head still tilted back and the chin tilted up, pinch the child's or infant's nostrils.

- Seal your mouth over hers and, while watching her chest to check that it rises, take a deep breath and breathe out slowly but firmly. Her chest should rise.

- Repeat five times.

- If she does not start breathing, listen with your ear to her chest for a heartbeat and check her pulse for circulation. If the heart is not beating and there is no circulation, you must move on to stage three.

Circulation - Stage Three

- This is the chest-compression stage of CPR. Find the child or infant's breastbone (also called the sternum). This is the place in the chest where the rib cage divides.

- Place the heel of your hand just above the sternum. Place the heel of your other hand on top of the first one and interlock your fingers.


- Press down into the chest to about one third of its depth. This is the chest compression. After each compression, release the pressure on the chest without removing your hand(s) or fingers.

- You should do two compressions each second. After 30 compressions give a mouth-to-mouth breath as described in stage two. Repeat this process until medical assistance arrives.

Take A Class

Reading about how to do something is never as effective as actually getting out there and doing it. Ask your health care provider about CPR classes where you'll be trained in resuscitation using life-size dummies.

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