CPR in a Baby (0 to 12 Months): First Aid

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. CPR is an emergency procedure that involves chest compressions and rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). When given properly, CPR can help deliver oxygen to the heart, brain and other organs until help arrives or until your baby recovers. Causes of cardiac arrest in babies are usually a result of a major injury or illness and rarely from underlying heart disease.

Other causes may include:

  • drowning
  • suffocation
  • electrocution
  • poisoning or intoxication
  • life-threatening (anaphylactic) allergic reactions

CPR courses are often available through local recreation programs, advanced swim programs, and first aid programs. The basic skills are simple and usually take a few hours to learn. 

Giving CPR to your baby

Check to see if your baby is responsive by gently rubbing his chest. If your baby does not respond to your touch, check to see if there are any injuries. If your baby does not move or make a sound, call 911 right away. If you are not alone, have someone else call for you.

Chest compressions

Begin CPR by laying your baby down on a firm, flat surface. Place your two fingers on the breastbone, just below the nipple line. Give your baby 30 quick chest compressions, pressing hard enough so their chest moves approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm) down. This will get the blood flowing to your baby's brain and other vital organs.


Rescue breaths

Open the airway

After the first 30 chest compressions, place the palm of your hand on your baby’s forehead. Place two fingers under the tip of their chin and gently tilt their head back. This will open the airway.


Begin rescue breathing

Place your mouth over your baby's nose and mouth, forming a tight seal, and give two slow breaths. If your baby’s chest does not rise, reposition their head, form a tighter seal, and try again.



Repeat this cycle of 30 chest compressions and two breaths every two minutes until the ambulance arrives or your baby starts breathing again.


Recovery position

Once your baby has recovered and started breathing again on their own, your baby may vomit and find it difficult to breathe. Simply put your baby in the recovery position, with their face pointing slightly down. Make sure nothing is blocking or covering your baby's mouth and nose. The recovery position will help keep your baby’s airway open.


 Key points

  • CPR inv​olves both chest compressions and rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation).
  • ​Chest compression should be delivered hard and fast.
  • CPR helps deliver oxygen and blood flow to the brain and other vital organs.
  • If your baby is unconscious and not breathing, call 911 right away.
  • After CPR, put your baby in the recovery position. This will keep his airway open.
Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE​