Infant CPR/Choking

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is an important technique to use in emergencies. CPR can save infant's life and prevent brain and organ damage.

Anyone who has a baby or works or spends time with babies should know infant CPR. Even if you never have to use it, you should be prepared for an emergency. Infant CPR is taught at certified first-aid training courses. You should retake the course about every 2 years. It also is good to print out this guide to have on hand.

Path to safety

It is important to know when and when not to do CPR on an infant. A child may be in distress if they are choking. This includes choking on liquid, hard food, or an object. Signs of choking include:

  • trouble breathing
  • wheezing when inhaling
  • coughing
  • crying
  • skin turning blue or purple.

Do not perform CPR if the infant is coughing hard. This type of coughing can help the child recover and stop choking. Instead you can aid this process. Place the infant on their stomach along your arm or leg. The infant's head should be pointed down. Put one hand on the infant's chest and hold the jaw open with your fingers. With the palm of your other hand give 5 firm slaps. Aim for the infant's back between their shoulder blades.

Then lay the infant on your thigh facing up, with his or head lower than their body. Place 2 or 3 fingers just below the baby's nipple line on the breastbone. Give 5 quick chest thrusts. These are done in the same position as chest compressions. Alternate 5 back slaps with 5 chest thrusts until the object is removed or you need to start CPR.

If the infant is choking on an object, this should help dislodge it. Allow the child to cough it up or spit it out on its own. Do not try to remove it yourself unless it is visible. If this doesn't work or if the child stops breathing, loses consciousness, or turns blue, you should do CPR. If there is more than one person around, have someone call 911. Do not leave the infant alone. You can call 911 yourself after 2 minutes of CPR.

CPR for an infant differs from CPR for an adult. CPR consists of three stages that make a cycle. The American Heart Association (AHA) uses CAB to remember the order. It stands for Compressions, Airway, and Breathing.

  • Compressions: Chest compressions stimulate the heart. The forceful pressing gets blood pumping again. To begin, place the infant on their back. Make sure their head is in line with their body. Start compressions by placing 2 fingers right under the infant's nipples. This should be the index finger of each hand, or the index and middle fingers on one hand if you need the other one for support. Press down until the infant's chest compresses by about 1/3 or 1/2. Do not press directly on the breastbone. Continue this for 30 consecutive compressions. (Think of the pressing to the tune "Stayin' Alive.")
  • Airway and Breathing: After 30 chest compressions, check for signs of breathing. Listen to the infant's chest and mouth for about 5 to 10 seconds. If they are not breathing, you need to open their airway. Tilt the infant's head back slightly by gently pressing on their forehead. Then, lift their chin. Pinch the infant's nostrils shut or cover their nose and mouth with your mouth. Give 2 large rescue breaths. Each breath should last for 1 second and not be too forceful. The infant's chest should rise with each breath.

Check again for signs of normal breathing. If the infant still is unconscious, begin chest compressions again. Repeat the process. After 5 cycles, or about 2 minutes, call 911 (if you are alone), or continue the process if you are waiting for emergency medical services (EMS) to arrive. If a second person is available, have him or her take over the process while waiting for EMS to arrive.

Things to consider

An infant may need CPR for other reasons besides choking. These can include:

  • drowning
  • poisoning
  • injury or shock
  • allergic reaction.

Most emergencies that require CPR can be avoided. To help prevent these you should:

  • Not let infants play with small parts or toys that they could easily swallow.
  • Not let infants crawl, walk, or run while eating.
  • Keep poisonous items out of reach.
  • Not leave infants alone around water.
  • Not leave infants alone on furniture or in strollers where they could fall.
  • Never tie clothing, jewelry, or toys around an infant's neck or wrists.

When to see the doctor

Call your doctor once the infant recovers from choking and/or CPR. If CPR is used and the infant recovers, you should still call 911. It is important that a professional still check them out.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • When and where should I take an infant CPR class?
  • How often should I be certified in CPR?
  • What are the scenarios in which I should or shouldn't give CPR?


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