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Resuscitation for babies and children

9-minute read

Are you in an emergency situation right now? Call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance. Start CPR as soon as possible after calling for help.

Key facts

  • CPR is a first aid technique that you can use if your child is not breathing normally or if their heart has stopped.
  • Make sure someone calls an ambulance when you start CPR.
  • To do CPR, you give mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths and chest compressions.
  • Anyone can learn CPR.
  • You should continue CPR until an ambulance arrives.
  • Any attempt at resuscitation is better than no attempt.

What is CPR?

CPR is short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

If a child stops breathing normally or their heart stops, doing CPR can keep their body going until an ambulance arrives.

When you do CPR, the chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth (rescue breaths) help circulate blood and oxygen in the body.

When to do CPR

You should start CPR if a baby or child:

  • is not moving and does not respond when you call them or tap their foot
  • is not breathing normally

Start CPR as soon as possible. Try to stay calm. CPR can save a child’s life.

How to perform CPR

There are some differences in how to perform CPR and first aid for babies and children compared with adults.

For both adults and children/babies you will use the same ratio of chest compressions and rescue breaths: 30 chest compressions for every 2 mouth-to-mouth breaths.

Follow these life support steps before starting. (Use the phrase DRS ABC to help you remember the steps.)

Letter Representing What to do
D Danger Ensure that the child/baby and all people in the area are safe. Do not put yourself or others at risk — remove the danger or the child/baby.
R Response Look for a response from the child/baby. Check for a response to a loud voice, tap their foot or squeeze their shoulders. Do not shake the child/baby.
S Send for help If there is no response, phone triple zero (000) or ask another person to call. Do not leave the child/baby.
A Airway Gently lift the child/baby’s chin to a neutral position (with the head and neck in line, not tilted). Check in the mouth for any blockages (vomit, an object or loose teeth) and clear it out with your finger.
B Breathing Check if the child/baby is breathing abnormally or not breathing at all after 10 seconds. If they are breathing normally, place them in the recovery position and stay with them.
C CPR If they are still not breathing normally, start CPR. Chest compressions are the most important part of CPR. Start chest compressions as soon as possible after calling for help.

Doing CPR is very tiring. If there is another person with you, try to swap between doing the compressions and doing the rescue breaths.

Keep going with 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths until:

  • medical help arrives
  • your child/baby responds or starts breathing normally
  • they start moving, breathing normally, coughing, crying or responding — then put them in the recovery position
  • it is not possible to continue CPR (for example, if you are too exhausted)

CPR for babies and children over 1 year - videos

Watch this video from Royal Life Saving Australia about how to perform CPR on a baby. Or read the DRS ABC action plan and step-by-step instructions below.

Watch this video from Royal Life Saving Australia about how to perform CPR on a child. Or read the DRS ABC action plan and step-by-step instructions below.

Give 30 chest compressions

  1. Place your child/baby on their back on a firm surface.
  2. Place the heel of one hand in the centre of the child’s chest. Put the heel of your other hand on top of the first hand. In babies, use two fingers to compress the chest instead.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, press straight down on the chest by one third of the chest depth.
  4. Release the pressure. Pressing down and releasing is one compression.

Give mouth-to-mouth breaths

  1. Tilt your child/baby’s head back very slightly and lift their chin to open their airway.
  2. Open the child/baby’s mouth but avoid touching their neck.
  3. Take a breath and place your lips over the child's mouth. Pinch the child’s nostrils closed with your finger and thumb. With a baby, you may cover their nose with your mouth too.
  4. Blow steadily for about 1 second, watching for the chest to rise. Release the seal.
  5. Turn your head and watch for the chest to fall. Listen and feel for signs that air is being expelled. Keep holding the head tilt and chin lift position.
  6. If their chest does not rise, check the mouth again and remove any blockage. Make sure that there is a good seal between yours and the child/baby’s mouth so that air cannot easily escape.
  7. Take another breath and repeat. This is 2 breaths.

Give 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths, known as “30:2”.

Aim for 5 sets of 30:2 in about 2 minutes (or 100 to 120 compressions per minute).


If there is an automatic external defibrillator (AED) available, attach it and follow the prompts. Do not use an AED on children under 1 year of age.

Resources and Support

First aid courses

You can learn CPR through a short course. Try St John Ambulance,  Australian Red Cross or Royal Life Saving Australia. Look for a course covering first aid for babies and children.

Information and apps to download

Read the St John Ambulance  fact sheet on CPR for infants and fact sheet on CPR for adults or children over 1 year.

St John Ambulance Australia has First Aid fact sheets in multiple languages.

Download the Australian Red Cross free First Aid app. This resource gives you access to the most up-to-date CPR advice, wherever you are.

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

Last reviewed: February 2023

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