If you’re expecting a baby, it’s an exciting, joyful time—but it can also be stressful. There’s so much to do to prepare. As the primary caretaker of a brand-new baby, one of the best things you can do for your child is to learn infant CPR.
CPR (or cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is an emergency measure that lets you circulate the victim’s blood through the body manually when the heart stops working. Through rescue breaths and chest compressions, you’re essentially taking on the role of the victim’s heart. You can deliver chest compressions without rescue breaths for adults, but babies are a different story.
Because babies are so tiny, the process of delivering CPR is different than it is for adults and older children. And it’s not just expecting moms who should learn how. Partners, grandparents, older children, and anyone who might be caring for the baby should learn how to deliver CPR in an emergency.
Why learn baby CPR?
Cardiac arrest in babies is rare, but it does happen. Here are some conditions and instances when babies are particularly at risk:
Choking. According to the US Department of health, choking is the fourth most common cause of accidental death in children under age 5. At least one child dies after choking on food every five days in the United States, and more than 12,000 children visit the emergency every year for choking-related injuries.
Choking cuts off a child’s air supply, which can lead to cardiac arrest. Many infant CPR classes will teach you first aid for choking in infants. If the first aid doesn’t work, you may need to administer CPR.
Drowning. Drowning is also a major danger for babies. From 2005 to 2015, approximately 3,536 accidental drownings occurred (outside of boating accidents) in the United States every year—about ten deaths a day. Approximately one in five drowning victims are children under the age of 15.
Babies are especially at risk of drowning. It’s possible to drown in less than two inches of water—so drownings can occur in any small body of standing water in or near your home. Bathtubs, buckets of water, sinks full of water, inflatable and in-ground pools, toilets, and fountains are all a danger to curious infants.
Heart abnormalities. Some babies are born with congenital heart disease, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, atherosclerotic coronary disease, or problems in the heart’s electrical function or muscular structure that can lead to cardiac arrest. Your doctor may spot these problems, but it’s not unusual for some heart issues to go undiagnosed until an emergency occurs.
Chest injuries. Babies are more delicate than older children and adults, and blows to the chest and other instances of physical trauma can also lead to cardiac arrest in infants.
Respiratory problems. Trouble breathing can lead to cardiac arrest. This may occur in infants who are choking or drowning, but it can also occur in babies with asthma and other respiratory issues.
Ingestion of medications or poison. Babies are curious, and love to put things in their mouths. And as they become more mobile, they’re good at getting into things they shouldn’t. Babies who ingest medications or household poisons accidentally could be at risk of cardiac arrest.
No discernible reason. Cardiac arrest can also occur in babies who seem perfectly healthy, and who haven’t experienced physical trauma. Approximately 10-15% of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases are caused by cardiac arrest.
The symptoms for cardiac arrest in babies may be less obvious than they are for adults or older children—so it’s essential to know how to spot them.
What you’ll learn in an infant CPR class
Not every infant CPR class is the same—but most cover similar territory. Sign up for an infant CPR class, and you’ll learn:
- The signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest in infants
- How to position a baby for CPR
- Appropriate rescue breathing, chest compression technique, and breaths-to-compressions ratio for infants
- First aid for choking
- When to call 911
You can take a more involved class, or learn the basics in just 20 minutes or less online. It’s an easy class to take—and parents as well as caregivers should consider taking it. Even experienced parents could benefit from refreshing their skills.
The good news is that, if CPR is delivered within the first 2 minutes of a child becoming unconscious or unresponsive, there’s a better-than-average chance of recovery with CPR. It pays to know these skills. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use them, but if you’re ever in an emergency situation, a baby CPR class can empower you to respond with confidence in any situation—and save your baby’s life.