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First Aid for Newborns: How to Do CPR on a Baby


There are many factors that can save a life after a cardiac or respiratory arrest, but one of the most critical is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). What’s most remarkable about this life-saving technique is that you do not have to be a medical professional or need a certificate to perform CPR. 


While the approach to CPR is the same in all ages, the ratios differ between children and adults. Interestingly, CPR on a baby is the only one that requires a unique technique. That’s because there is the potential that an infant might be injured during CPR, which is why the method has to be different. 


On babies, you only need to use two fingers versus one hand for kids older than a year and two hands for adults. Read on to find out more about first for newborns, and how to do CPR on a baby.

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For parents and caregivers alike, understanding how to perform CPR on a baby can prevent tragedy and give peace of mind.

Infant CPR

Infant CPR applies to babies up to a year old. The ratio of compressions to breaths is 30:2.

1. Check Responsiveness

To check if the baby is awake, tap its foot and yell or talk loudly. If there is no response, it is time to call for help and start chest compressions. If you are alone, do one full cycle of CPR before calling. This needs to be a very quick process as every second truly counts. 

2. Perform Chest Compressions

Lie the infant on a firm flat surface. Find the imaginary line between the nipples and place two fingers right beneath it in the center of the chest for 30 compressions. To be effective, chest compressions should happen at a rate of 100/minute while pressing down 1.4 inches (⅓  thickness) on the chest. 

3. Open the Airway

After 30 compressions, it is time to check for the obstructing object. Carefully tilt the head back enough to open up the airway for rescue breaths.

4. Give Rescue Breaths

The next step is to breathe into the infant’s lungs. Place your mouth over the baby’s mouth and nose and make sure to create a tight seal. Give two rescue breaths and watch for the chest to rise between each one. The chest rises when enough air reaches the lungs. 

5. Continue the Cycle

Repeat the cycle of 30 compressions to two rescue breaths until help arrives to take over. Continuous CPR on a baby keeps blood and oxygen circulating to vital organs.

Infant Choking

Babies like to put anything in their mouths and they do not know the dangers that come with that. The technique to save an infant from choking is unique.


Choking Hazards

An infant has a small trachea and is at high risk for choking. Items such as small toys, buttons, or coins can get stuck in the throat and block the airway. Even foods, including hot dogs, popcorn, candy, and raw carrots are dangerous to a baby.

Signs of Baby Choking

Signs of an infant choking are easy to recognize and warrant immediate medical attention. 


  • High-pitched sound while inhaling
  • Purple to bluish skin in the face
  • Inability to cry 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Loss of consciousness

When to Use the Heimlich

The Heimlich is a method that helps the body expel objects blocking the airway of adults and children older than one. It is not always appropriate to use life-saving measures on someone who is choking. 


If the person has an active cough and can talk or breathe, have them continue coughing to see if the obstruction clears. Perform the Heimlich if the individual is not able to expel the object and shows signs of distress or if they go unconscious.  

baby in green blanket

Baby Heimlich (Back Blows and Chest Thrust)

The traditional Heimlich is not suitable for babies because their bodies are small and more delicate. Instead, the method to use on an infant is back blowing (slaps) and chest thrusts. If you see a baby choking, quickly assess the situation before starting. 


If it is forcefully coughing or has a strong cry, the baby might be able to get it up. If the infant is awake but not breathing, you need to intervene immediately. The back blow technique is very specific and effective if you do it correctly and quickly. 

1. Give Back Blows

Position the baby face down across your inner forearm while supporting its head with your hand and its torso with your thigh. The baby’s head should be lower than its torso so that the object can come out. 


Using the heel of your opposite hand, give five forceful blows between the baby’s shoulder blades. Check to see if the object flew out of the baby’s mouth. If not, begin chest thrusts. 

2. Apply Chest Thrusts

While still supporting the baby’s head, turn the child over with its head still down. Using two fingers, apply five firm thrusts on the baby’s sternum (breastbone). This action will help push the occlusion down toward the baby’s mouth. 

3. Check for Object

To check for an obstructive object, place your thumb in the baby’s mouth and grasp the lower jaw to lift it. You should be able to view the baby’s throat. If you see an object, carefully try to remove it. Never do a blind finger sweep. 


If the object is not visible, do not sweep your finger as it could push the object further down the windpipe. Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until the obstruction clears or the baby stops breathing. In that case, begin infant CPR.


Prevention of Choking

To prevent infant choking, be aware of your child’s surroundings. Put away objects that could pose a danger if the baby ingests them. Only feed your child food that is very small and soft. Examples of risky foods are hotdogs, popcorn, grapes, nuts, or anything else that is round. 


Cut finger foods into small pieces or spoon-feed small bites. Continuously monitor the child during meals and play. Avoid candy. 


There are so many potential hazards and choking risks that are present in day-to-day life. For parents and caregivers alike, understanding how to perform CPR on a baby can prevent tragedy and give peace of mind. 


Still, safety must come first. Even when administering life-saving measures, it is essential to have someone call 9-1-1. If you are alone, perform one cycle of CPR or back blows/chest thrusts before calling for help. 

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