CPR - infant

Alternative names 
Rescue breathing and chest compressions - infant; Resuscitation - cardiopulmonary - infant; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation - infant


CPR is a lifesaving procedure that is performed when an infant’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped, as in cases of drowning, suffocation, choking, or injuries. CPR is a combination of:

  • Rescue breathing, which provides oxygen to the infant’s lungs  
  • Chest compressions, which keep the infant’s blood circulating.

Permanent brain damage or death can occur within minutes if a infant’s blood flow stops. Therefore, you must continue these procedures until the infant’s heartbeat and breathing return, or trained medical help arrives.


CPR can be lifesaving, but it is best performed by those who have been trained in an accredited CPR course. The procedures described here are not a substitute for CPR training.

All parents and those who take care of children should learn infant and child CPR if they haven’t already. This jewel of knowledge is something no parent should be without. (See http://www.americanheart.org for classes near you.)

Time is very important when dealing with an unconscious infant who is not breathing. Permanent brain damage begins after only 4 minutes without oxygen, and death can occur in as little as 4 to 6 minutes later.


In infants, major reasons that heartbeat and breathing stop include drowning, suffocation, choking, head trauma or serious injury, excessive bleeding, Electrical shock, poisoning, and lung disease.


  • Unconsciousness  
  • No breathing  
  • No pulse

First Aid

The following steps are based on instructions from the American Heart Association.

  1. Check for responsiveness. Shake or tap the infant gently. See if the infant moves or makes a noise. Shout, “Are you OK?”

  2. If there is no response, shout for help. Send someone to call 911. Do not leave the infant yourself to call 911 until you have given about one minute of CPR.

  3. Carefully place the infant on his or her back. If there is a chance the infant has a spinal injury, two people are needed to move the infant without twisting the head and neck.

  4. Open the airway. Lift up the chin with one hand. At the same time, push down on the forehead with the other hand.

  5. Look, listen, and feel for breathing. Place your ear close to the infant’s mouth and nose. Watch for chest movement. Feel for breath on your cheek.

  6. If the infant is not breathing:

  • Cover the infant’s mouth and nose tightly with your mouth      
  • Alternatively, cover just the nose. Hold the mouth shut.      
  • Keep the chin lifted and head tilted      
  • Give 2 slow breaths. Do NOT give large, full, forceful breaths.

  7. If the chest does NOT rise, try the chin lift-head tilt again, and give 2 more breaths. If the chest still doesn’t rise, check to see if something is blocking the airway and try to remove it.

  8. Look for signs of circulation - normal breathing, coughing, or movement. If these signs are still absent, begin chest compressions.

  9. Perform chest compressions:

  • Place 2-3 fingers on the breastbone - just below the nipples. Make sure not to press at the very end of the breastbone.      
  • Keep your other hand on the infant’s forehead, keeping the head tilted back.      
  • Press down on the infant’s chest so that it compresses about 1/3 to 1/2 the depth of the chest.      
  • Give 5 chest compressions. Each time, let the chest rise completely. These compressions should be FAST with no pausing. Count the 5 compressions quickly: “a, b, c, d, off.”

  10. Give the infant 1 slow, full breath. The chest should rise.

  11. Continue cycles of 5 chest compressions followed by 1 slow, full breath.

  12. After about 1 minute, check again for signs of circulation.

  13. At this time, if the infant still does not have normal breathing, coughing, or any movement, leave the infant to call 911.

  14. Repeat steps 11 and 12 until the infant recovers or help arrives.

If the infant starts breathing again, place him or her in the recovery position. Periodically re-check for breathing and signs of circulation until help arrives.

Do Not

  • If a spinal injury is suspected, DO NOT tilt the head back when attempting to open the airway. Instead, place your fingers on the jaw on each side of the head. Lift the jaw forward. This keeps the head and neck from moving.  
  • If the infant has signs of circulation - normal breathing, coughing, or movement - DO NOT begin chest compressions. Doing so may cause the heart to stop beating.  
  • Unless you are a health professional, DO NOT check for a pulse. Only a healthcare professional is properly trained to check for a pulse.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

  • If you have help, tell one person to call 911 while another person begins CPR.  
  • If you are alone, shout loudly for help and begin CPR. After doing CPR for about 1 minute, if no help has arrived, call 911. You may carry the infant with you to the nearest phone (unless you suspect spinal injury).


Unlike adults, who often require CPR because of a heart attack, most children need CPR because of a preventable accident.

Never underestimate what a infant can do. Play it safe and assume the child is more mobile and more dexterous than you thought possible. Never leave an infant unattended on a bed, table, or other surface from which the infant could roll. Always use safety straps on high chairs and strollers. Never leave a infant in a mesh playpen with one side down.

Start teaching your infant the meaning of “Don’t touch.” The earliest safety lesson is “No!”

Choose age-appropriate toys. Do not give infants toys that are heavy or fragile. Inspect toys for small or loose parts, sharp edges, points, loose batteries, and other hazards.

Create a safe environment and supervise children carefully, particularly around water and near furniture. Dangers such as electrical outlets, stove tops, and medicine cabinets are attractive to small children.

To reduce the risk of choking accidents, make sure small children can not reach buttons, watch batteries, popcorn, coins, grapes, or nuts. It is also important to sit with an infant while he or she eats. Do not allow an infant to crawl around while eating or drinking from a bottle.

Never tie pacifiers (or anything else) around an infant’s neck.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.