Infant CPR: What to Know
Infant CPR, as Reviewed by an ER Doctor
November 17, 2022

Infant CPR, as Reviewed by an ER Doctor

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Infant CPR, as Reviewed by an ER Doctor.
Infant CPR, as Reviewed by an ER Doctor

Written Dr. Seran Kim, board-certified Emergency Physician

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a skill that you never hope to use, but it can save lives. CPR is performed when someone is unconscious, unresponsive or not breathing.

Infants, however, need CPR for different reasons than adults. While adults usually need CPR after sudden cardiac arrest from a heart attack, infants most often need CPR due to a respiratory issue, which then leads to cardiac arrest. In infants, this is most commonly due to:

  • Choking
  • Suffocation
  • Severe asthma
  • Poisoning
  • Near drowning
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Head trauma
  • Electric shock
  • Obstructive apnea
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

It’s always a good idea to take an infant CPR class, especially when you’re planning for the arrival of a baby or have other little ones at home.

Due to differences in anatomy and physiology, infant CPR protocols differ from those of an adult, and even an older child. Performing adult CPR on an infant can actually do more harm, so it’s important to understand the significant differences in performing CPR for these three groups: infants (defined as less than one year old), children (from one year old up to puberty age or less than 121 pounds) and adults.

“Bystander” CPR (that which is done before emergency medical services arrive) can improve outcomes by two to three times, and infants (and children) typically have higher chances of survival with CPR if it’s started immediately. Chest compressions alone help push any oxygenated blood to vital organs to keep them alive and give your baby a higher chance of survival.

There are many ways you can take a class, from in-person to online, and there are many protocol variations. Emergency physicians typically refer to the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines, but the American Red Cross, neighborhood YMCAs and local hospitals may also provide good resources.

The AHA even offers an Infant Anytime CPR kit that comes with a self-directed DVD and mannequin to learn infant CPR and choking protocols from the comfort of your own home.

After taking a course, it’s always a good idea to refresh yourself with the steps from time to time. Print out whichever guide you follow and keep it in a highly visible place in your home. Take a photo and save it to your favorites on your phone for quick reference.

Steps for Infant CPR

Although these guidelines don’t replace a certified CPR course, here are the five main steps for infant CPR:

1. Check the scene

Make sure there are no hazards, such as electrical wires or anything that could endanger YOU.

2. Call 911

If the infant isn’t awake or breathing normally, ask a bystander to call 911.

If you’re alone, administer two minutes of CPR, THEN call 911. Infants are generally more resilient and more responsive to compressions, so it’s important to start them as soon as possible.

3. Chest Compressions

Note: If the infant is breathing, there is no need for CPR.

Deliver 30 chest compressions with two fingers in the middle of the chest at depth of one and a half inches.

4. Rescue Breaths

If willing and able, provide two rescue breaths. Continue compressions.

5. Repeat the cycle

Keep repeating a cycle of 30 chest compressions and two breaths until EMS arrives.

Learn how to save a life. Since four of every five cardiac arrests occur at home, the life you learn to save is likely to be someone you love.

Disclaimer: The medical information provided does not substitute for an accredited CPR class or medical advice, and is for educational purposes only.

Factually reviewed by Dr. Seran Kim, board-certified Emergency Physician, on June 30, 2021.


Dr. Seran Kim is a board-certified Emergency Physician, cancer survivor and mom to three rambunctious boys, and she’s one of the doctors who helped develop the Babylist First Aid Kit. When not working, she can be found hiking, reading or embarrassing her kids with her hip-hop dancing. She has a weakness for milk chocolate and succulent plants that don’t need regular watering. She cannot live without GooGone and her power drill. She is adamant about helmets and seatbelts—and coffee. She believes the key to parenting survival is surrounding yourself with other families and raising kids as a village.

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