Basics of infant CPR that every caregiver should know

Caring for an infant, either as a parent or simply as a temporary caregiver, is often a daunting experience at the best of times. However, infant care can take a terrifying turn when an infant stops breathing or becomes unresponsive. It is inevitable that, as soon as an infant develops just enough coordination, everything that can be picked up with little fingers will go straight into a little mouth, including small items that can easily obstruct tiny airways. Therefore, it is important for every parent or caregiver to learn at least the basics of infant CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

It is essential to remember to seek the consent of a parent or guardian when applicable, if one is present, before administering any type of care to an infant. According to the American Red Cross, if an infant becomes, or is found, unconscious and unresponsive, begin by gently rolling the child into a face-up position, if it is not already, while taking care to keep the child’s back, neck and head in a straight line. Next, flick the bottom of the infant’s foot firmly in an attempt to elicit a response. If the infant shows no response, instruct another individual to call 911 immediately while beginning care. However, if no one else is around, administer at least two minutes of care and then break briefly to call 911. If the infant begins to respond, the 911 operator will provide instructions for further care until emergency services arrive. If, on the other hand, there is no response from the infant, the caregiver should begin CPR.

The first step of infant CPR is to tilt the child’s head back, while simultaneously raising the child’s chin, in order to open the infant’s airway. Lean in closely to the infant’s face to check for signs of breathing, but do not take more than ten seconds to do so. Irregular breathing patterns are relatively common for infants, but intermittent gasps do not qualify as breathing.

If, after opening the infant’s airway, there is still no sign of breathing, give two short, consecutive rescue breaths. To do this, the caregiver should place his or her hand that is closest to the top of the infant’s head onto the forehead, while placing the index and middle finger of his or her other hand under the infant’s chin, and tilt the child’s head back to open the airway once again. The caregiver should then place his or her mouth over both the infant’s mouth and nose, forming a complete seal, and blow for roughly one second so that the child’s chest clearly rises. This breath should be repeated once more for the second rescue breath after a short pause to allow the infant’s chest to fall.

One important thing to remember in this type of situation is that, if the caregiver witnessed the infant collapse suddenly, rescue breaths should be skipped and the caregiver should begin chest compressions immediately. Additionally, if the infant’s chest does not rise with the initial rescue breaths, the caregiver should reposition the child’s head using the directions above and make another attempt. If the child begins breathing, the caregiver should still monitor the child closely and seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Conversely, if the infant does not begin to breathe after the initial rescue breaths, it is time to begin CPR.

Before administering chest compressions to an infant, ensure that the child is on a flat, firm surface. If, as mentioned above, the infant’s chest does not rise after two rounds of two quick rescue breaths, and the infant is still not breathing, the caregiver should begin chest compressions. To do so, the caregiver should use the middle and ring fingers of the hand that was used to lift the infant’s chin during the rescue breaths, while the caregiver’s other hand should remain on the infant’s forehead. Keeping the fingers straight and stiff, the caregiver should place his or her fingers in the center of the infant’s chest, pushing hard and fast, and compressing the chest approximately one and a half inches deep at a rate of roughly 100 compressions per minute. Only thirty chest compressions should be administered to the infant at one time.

After completing the chest compressions, the caregiver should tilt the infant’s head back again and open the child’s mouth, examining it for any foreign objects. If an object is seen, the caregiver should remove it. If no object is visible, the caregiver should hold the infant’s mouth open with the hand used for chest compressions while making a hook shape by curving the pinky finger of the other hand, and then sweep that finger into the child’s mouth and throat to dislodge any foreign objects. If no object is found and the infant is still not breathing, the caregiver should tilt the child’s head back once again and administer two more rescue breaths. If the rescue breaths still fail to make the infant’s chest rise, continue the pattern of chest compressions, checking for a foreign object, and attempting two more rescue breaths until the child’s chest rises or emergency services arrive.

A caregiver should never stop administering CPR unless the infant begins breathing or exhibits other obvious signs of life, emergency services arrive and take over, another individual trained in infant CPR takes over, the caregiver is absolutely too exhausted to continue, or the scene in which CPR is being administered becomes unsafe. It is imperative to note that if a caregiver notices any obvious signs of life from the infant, he or she should cease CPR and monitor the child’s breathing for any changes until emergency services arrive.

The thought of an unresponsive infant is perhaps the single most frightening thought that any parent or caregiver could ever have. However, taking the time to become familiar with these basic steps of infant CPR means that the parent or caregiver will be prepared in the event that the worst ever does occur. After all, the proper administration of CPR can literally mean, and has meant, the difference between life and death for an infant in distress.