Infant CPR and First-Aid: 5 Things You Need To Do

As you prepare for your baby's arrival, you've got a checklist of all of the things you need to get done: organize the nursery, wash the baby's clothes, attend childbirth education classes, hire a doula, prep freezer meals, and so on and so forth--whatever it is you feel you need to do in order to be ready when the day finally comes, right?

Take a look at that list: is CPR and first-aid training on it? If not, keep reading!


A few days ago I attended my bi-annual CPR training to ensure that my certification stays up to date, and I realized that I was one of only two non-medical professionals present. And it got me thinking about how important these skills are for everyone, but particularly for parents!

It's no secret that children, and especially babies, are notorious for putting things in their mouths that just don't belong. Unfortunately, that very common behavior poses a very serious risk: choking.

It can happen quickly and it requires a swift response, but do you know how to respond appropriately? If not, I've got five tips to help get you to a place of peace and preparedness before your little one arrives:

1. Take a training!

It's as simple as that! Within 2 hours you could have the knowledge and skills to save your child's life. Two hours for a lifetime of memories? Sign me up! If you've been trained in CPR and first-aid previously, it's also worth it to refresh those skills periodically. Information and techniques are updated, and skills require practice--even CPR and first-aid skills. In fact, according to a research review conducted by the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, "CPR skill retention begins to decline within a few months after a participant is trained and progressively decreases for about a year. Less than half of course participants can pass a skills test one year after training" (American Red Cross Refresher Center).

Practice. Is. Important.

 Are you local to me? Drop me a line! I can help you find a training nearby.

2. Know the difference between gagging and choking.

Unless you've taken a CPR class or are immersed in the world of baby-led weaning, it's possible that the idea that there is a difference between gagging and choking has never been presented to you. But alas, there is a difference, and it makes all the difference: gagging, while unpleasant, is not dangerous in itself; actually, it's a sign that a body is doing its job and protecting a baby (or child, or adult) from swallowing something potentially dangerous! Choking, on the other hand, occurs when the airways have effectively been blocked.

But how will you know the difference? Try this phrase on for size: Loud and red, go ahead; silent and blue, needs help from you! As long as your baby is making noises (coughing, crying, gagging), they are working it out. Let them be, but keep a close eye on them just in case things take a turn.

If you notice your baby has become silent, looks panicked, or is turning blue, this is a sign they need help from you. Enter: the Heimlich maneuver for infants...if you know it

***I am not a medical professional and though I am trained and certified in CPR, I am not qualified to train you, so here's a link to an online resource that should help(see panel/page 5)!

My non-medical advice, though? Take a class (see tip #1, above).)***

3. Don't sweep!

Maybe you've been here, or maybe you remember experiencing it yourself as a child (heck, maybe you've watched your parents or grandparents do it to one of their grandchildren recently!): the finger sweep. It's where a well-meaning individual notices an infant gagging, and goes in after the object of struggle with a single finger to try to "sweep" it out. This is a big no-no.

What? You're just supposed to leave it be? In short, yes. Attempting to sweep a baby's mouth when they are working on working it out can turn a gagging event into a choking event, accidentally pushing the object back into the throat and causing a blockage.

4. Know when to perform CPR.

So the worst has happened: gagging turned into choking, which then escalated into a CPR event. What does that look like? What steps should you take?

According to the Red Cross, before you begin CPR, you need to check the scene for safety (Are you in a safe space to perform CPR? Is it possible you will be harmed in attempts to perform the CPR?), and check the infant for responsiveness by flicking their foot. Did they react?

Next, you need to check for breathing, taking NO MORE than 10 seconds to do so. Occasional gasps do not count as breathing, by the way, but keep in mind that infants typically have periodic breathing, so changes in breathing patterns are considered normal. Not breathing? Perform infant CPR. Here's a link to a demonstration so you can see what it looks like in action! (Note: while a good reference, this does not replace an actual CPR and first-aid training course. Take a class!)

5. Last, but not least: Care FIRST, call after.

In emergency situations, our first reaction is often to call 911. When it comes to a CPR event, time is of the essence, especially with infants. If you are alone with the infant (or child), provide two minutes of care (or 5 sets of compressions + rescue breaths at a ratio of 30:2) and then call 911. If another person is present, they should call 911 immediately while you provide care, or vice versa.


There you have it: 5 things you need to know about infant CPR and first-aid! While we all hope we never need to use these skills, it's a good idea (and can be such a relief when it comes time for starting solids!) to have them in your back pocket. You know, just in case you need them. Safety first! 

So, now is CPR and first-aid training on your to-do list before the big day? Need help finding a training nearby, or have other questions about prepping for your little one's arrival? Contact me. I would love to chat with you!