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First Aid for baby who is unresponsive and not breathing

For baby under the age of one.

If a baby is not moving and does not respond when you call them or tap their foot, they are unresponsive.

1. Check for breathing by tilting their head back and looking and feeling for breaths.

Tilting the baby’s head back opens their airway by pulling the tongue forward. If they are not breathing, their chest and stomach will not be moving and you will not hear or feel their breaths. If they are not breathing, move on to step two.

2. Tell someone to call 144 (Switzerland) 112 (France).

If you are on your own, call 144 (CH) or 122 (F) after you’ve spent one minute giving them rescue breaths and chest compressions.

3. Give five rescue breaths: tilt their head back, seal your mouth over their mouth and nose. Blow five times into the baby.

You are acting as the lungs by blowing into them and topping up the oxygen levels in their blood. This oxygen is needed to keep their organs alive.

4. Give 30 chest compressions: push firmly in the middle of their chest with two fingers so that the chest goes inward, then release.

By doing these chest compressions you are acting as the heart by keeping blood pumping around their body and helping keep the vital organs alive, including the brain.

5. Give two rescue breaths. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until help arrives.

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

It’s vital to check for breathing. Knowing whether they are breathing changes how you should help the baby. How you help an unresponsive baby who is breathing is very different to how you help if that baby is not breathing.

How hard should I blow during rescue breaths?

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

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

Keep going until help arrives or the baby starts to breathe.

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

A baby’s rib cage is flexible, so the risk of breaking their ribs by giving chest compressions is small. Remember: you are giving chest compressions to keep the baby alive. Without chest compressions and rescue breaths before the ambulance arrives, they are much less likely to survive.

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

It’s best to top up the level of oxygen in your baby before calling144(CH) or 112(F). If you are on your own, give rescue breaths and chest compressions for one minute and then call 144(CH) or 112(F). After you’ve called 144 or 112, continue rescue breaths and chest compressions until help arrives. If someone else is with you, get them to call 144(CH) or 112(F) as soon as possible.

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

Call 144 for Switzerland or 112 if you are in France as soon as possible and the operator will prompt you with questions. It is important to tell them that the baby is unresponsive and not breathing. Giving them as much information as possible will help them prioritise your call.

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

You are unlikely to see any change at all in the baby’s condition, but your actions may still be having a beneficial effect.

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

You give rescue breaths and chest compressions to give the baby the best chance of survival. You are acting as their heart and lungs, buying them vital time until medical help arrives. The chance of restarting their heart by rescue breaths and chest compressions alone is low.

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

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 giving rescue breaths and chest compressions as soon as you realise they are still breathing.

You can install an app on your phone called "Baby & Child First Aid" from the Red Cross.

Reference: British Red Cross

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