How to Give CPR to a Baby or Child who isn’t Breathing

CPR is one of the key areas of first aid that still confuss many people.  What does it mean?  How do you do it?  When is it needed?  As a first aid trainer and trained nurse, I know just how vital those first minutes can be. So here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know.

CPR stands for Cardio, Pulmonary Resuscitation and covers the stages that should be used if someone is unconscious and not breathing.

When you are resuscitating someone, you are acting as a life support machine.  When you push on their chest, you are being their heart – and when you breathe into them, you are being their lungs.  You are keeping their heart and brain full of oxygenated blood, keeping them alive, so that when the paramedics arrive with a defibrillator they have a good chance of bringing them back to life.

Although it is unbelievably distressing if a baby is unresponsive, try to stay as calm as possible.

Step by step instructions for babies:

To act as a life support machine to a baby (up to 12 months old)  who is unconscious and not breathing, follow these simple steps to give them the best chances of recovery.

Step One: Check for a response and if their is no response – open their airway. Tilt their head and lift their chin – just to horizontal. Do not over extend a baby’s airway.

How to open a baby's airway   tilt head lift chin for baby

Step Two:  Having opened their airway, check to see if they are breathing – Put your cheek above their mouth and nose and look down their chest. If you think they are not breathing properly (less than 2  normal breaths in a 10 second period), start CPR.

look listen and feel to check for breathing

Step Three: Tilt their head and lift their chin until it is horizontal and give up to 5 rescue breaths.

Seal your mouth around their mouth and nose (if you can fit your mouth over both) and blow into them gently with a puff of your cheeks.

Their lungs are about the size of a teabag – so you won’t need a full breath.  

baby breaths 3


Step Four: Push hard and fast on the centre of their chest, roughly between the nipples, at a rate of about 120 beats per minute – roughly 2 per second.


baby compressions






Step Five: After about 30 compressions, you will need to give them 2 more breaths and then continue with the compressions again. Keep going with this until the ambulance arrives.

Important note:

If you are on your own, you should perform 1 minute’s CPR before phoning for an ambulance (5 breaths, 30:2, 30:2 is about a minute). Continue until the paramedics arrive.


How to call an ambulance


Step Six: If the casualty is unconscious but they are still breathing, you should put them into the recovery position. After that,  monitor them closely to make sure they continue to breathe.


baby recovery


How to give CPR to a child:

A child is classed as anyone from over 12 months up to puberty.

Children are unable to retain oxygen in their system with the same efficiency as adults. Therefore, when resuscitating a child you will need to start with 5 rescue breaths. 

child mouth to mouth First Aid for Life

Then, tilt their head back and lift their chin (in order to open their airway) and then breathe into them sufficiently for their chest to rise, once again ensuring you fully cover their mouth to form a tight seal.

This should then be followed by 30 chest compressions – pushing down on the chest by about a third and pushing hard and fast.

child chest compressions

For a baby or child – if you are on your own do one minute’s CPR before calling an ambulance and then continue: 2 breaths: 30 compressions.

To read the full article on adult and child CPR, and for information on why it is so important that you give breaths and well as compressions, click here . It might just help you to save a life.

Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

First Aid Training

Every year, thousands of parents and professionals choose First Aid for Life to empower them with skills and confidence to help their bay or child in an emergency. Join an award-winning courses at our lovely bright training room, or book bespoke training at a time and place to suit you. Our highly experienced medical and emergency service professionals will run informative, reassuring, hands-on training and answer all your questions. Learn life-saving CPR, how to help if your baby chokes, advice for common injuries and receive a comprehensive First Aid manual, CPR,choking and head injury flow charts and Certificate. Our Paediatric courses fulfil Ofsted requirements for Child Carers.

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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

Emma Hammett
Author: Emma Hammett