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Resuscitation for babies and children

3-minute read

Learning how to do resuscitation can make a big difference to your child's safety. Doing a first aid course could save a life. Children are precious, and knowing what to do if a child in your care needs help makes everyone feel safer.

Why learn resuscitation?

Sometimes a few simple actions can change the outcome of an accident. For example, if someone's heart stops, doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can keep their circulation going until an ambulance and trained health personnel arrive.

There are some differences in how to do first aid for kids compared with adults. For example, CPR airway and compression techniques are a bit different for babies.

Resuscitation basics

Anyone who is unconscious and not breathing at all needs CPR. Someone who is unresponsive and not breathing normally— for example, they’re only taking an occasional quick breath — also needs CPR.

A simple way to remember the basic life support steps is to think of 'DRS ABCD,' which stands for Dangers, Responsive, Send for help followed by Airway, Breathing, CPR and Defibrillation.

Dangers — make sure the area is safe for you and there is no risk to others.

Responsive — check if the child responds to your touch or voice. Gently squeeze the baby or child's shoulders and speak to them. Do not shake them.

Send for help — ask someone else to call an ambulance on triple zero (000).

Airway — gently lift the baby’s chin to a neutral position (with the head and neck in line, not tilted), or a child’s head tilted back very slightly. Check in the mouth for any blockages, such as vomit, an object or debris, and clear it out with your finger. You might need to move the child’s tongue. Leave a baby on their back. Lie a bigger child on their side before removing the blockage.

Breathing — look, listen and feel to see if the child is breathing normally. If they are, place them in the recovery position: on their side for a child, and facedown along your forearm for a baby. If they're not breathing, go onto CPR.

CPR — now lie the baby or child on their back. Start compressions. Use your hands for a child and 2 fingers for a baby. Press in the centre of the chest, pushing down to a third of the depth of the chest. (Pressing down and releasing is 1 compression). Do 30 compressions, then pause briefly and give 2 breaths, placing your mouth over the child’s mouth with their nose pinched. With a baby, put your mouth over their mouth and nose. Keep repeating 30 compressions and 2 breaths.

Keep going until qualified help arrives, you are too exhausted, or the child begins breathing normally or responding.

If the child starts breathing and responding, turn them into the recovery position. Keep watching their breathing and be ready to start again at any time.

For more information, see the St John fact sheet on CPR for infants.

Defibrillation — if there is an automatic defibrillator (AED) available, attach it and follow the prompts.

Where to learn resuscitation

You can learn resuscitation through a short, face-to-face course from St John Ambulance and the Australian Red Cross. Both offer general first aid training and specific courses on first aid for babies and children. The Australian Red Cross has also developed a free app with instructions on first aid and CPR.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2020

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Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for children (over 12 months of age) | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

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