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Baby and Child First Aid

Questions and answers about giving first aid to a baby who is unresponsive and not breathing

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

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How can I check for a response from the baby?

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Call the baby’s name and tap their foot. If they do not move or respond to you, treat them as an unresponsive baby.

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Q

Why is it important that I check for breathing on an unresponsive baby?

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It’s vital to check for breathing because this will indicate how you should help the baby. How you help an unresponsive baby who is breathing is very different to how you help an unresponsive baby who is not breathing.

Learn how to treat a baby who is unresponsive and breathing.

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Q

How hard should I blow during rescue breaths?

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You should blow gently until you see the baby’s chest rise.

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Q

How long should I do chest compressions and rescue breaths for?

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You should keep going until help arrives or the baby starts to breathe.

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Q

Do I have to give rescue breaths?

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Ideally you should deliver rescue breaths if you are able and willing as this increases the chance of a successful outcome for the baby. However, if you can’t give rescue breaths for any reason, just give chest compressions.

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Q

If I press too hard during chest compressions, could I break my baby’s ribs?

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The rib cage of a baby is very flexible, so the risk of breaking their ribs by giving chest compressions is actually very small. However, it is important to remember that ultimately the point of doing chest compressions is to keep the baby alive. Without chest compressions and rescue breaths before the ambulance arrives, their chances of survival are much lower.

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Q

What if I’m on my own and my baby is unresponsive and not breathing?

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It’s best to top up the level of oxygen in your baby before calling 999. So if you are on your own, do rescue breaths and chest compressions for one minute and then call 999. Then continue rescue breaths and chest compressions until help arrives. Obviously, if someone else is with you, they should call 999 immediately.

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Q

What should I say on the phone to the emergency services?

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Call the emergency services as soon as possible and they will prompt you with questions. In this case, it is important to tell them that the baby is unresponsive and not breathing. The more information you can give the ambulance controller about the baby the better as it will help them prioritise your call.

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Q

Will I see an immediate response to my chest compressions and rescue breaths?

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Many people think they will see an immediate response to chest compressions and rescue breaths. However, often you will not see any change at all in the baby’s condition, but your actions may still be having a beneficial effect.

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Q

Will giving rescue breaths and chest compressions bring the baby back to life?

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The aim of rescue breaths and chest compressions is to give the baby the best chance of survival by acting as their heart and lungs, buying vital time until the ambulance service arrives. The chance of restarting their heart by rescue breaths and chest compressions alone is slim.

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Q

What if I make a mistake and deliver rescue breaths and chest compressions but the baby is actually still breathing?

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It’s not ideal but don’t worry – there’s no evidence to suggest you will smother them or cause any serious damage. You should stop delivering rescue breaths and chest compressions as soon as you realise they are still breathing. 

Find out more about how to help a baby who is unresponsive and breathing.

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Q

What is CPR?

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CPR is the term used to describe the combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths. It is short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

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How do I help a child who is unresponsive and not breathing?

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