Are You Prepared for the Unexpected? Discover the Essential Steps to Performing CPR on a Child!

A person using two fingers to perform CPR on a mannequin.

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, can be a lifesaver in emergencies involving children – but only if you know what to do. Did you know there are distinctions between adult and child CPR? This blog post is your guide to understanding these differences, teaching you how to correctly perform CPR on a child, whether an infant under one year old or over one-year-old.

Ready to learn this life-saving skill? Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the differences between adult and child CPR to perform it correctly on a child.
  • Check for danger, call for help, and open the child’s airway if they are unresponsive and not breathing.
  • Perform chest compressions by using one hand in the centre of the chest for children over one year old or two fingers in the centre of the chest for babies under one-year-old.
  • Give rescue breaths by tilting their head slightly, covering their mouth with yours, and blowing gently until you see their chest rise.

Performing CPR on a Child

When rendering first aid assistance to anyone in Australia, you should always follow the DRSABCD action plan. The DRSABCD action plan is a fundamental component of essential life support. It is recommended by organisations like the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) and the Australian and New Zealand Committee on Resuscitation (ANZCOR). These organisations provide guidelines and training for healthcare professionals, first responders, and the general public on responding effectively to cardiac arrests and other medical emergencies in Australia.

DRSABCD stands for:

  1. Danger: Ensure the scene is safe for both the patient and the rescuer.
  2. Response: Check for a response from the patient by tapping them and asking if they are okay.
  3. Send for Help: Call emergency services (dial 000 in Australia) and request an ambulance.
  4. Airway: Open the patient’s airway by tilting their head back and lifting the chin. This helps ensure they can breathe.
  5. Breathing: Check if the patient is breathing. Put your ear close to their mouth and look, listen and feel if there is any breath.
  6. CPR: If not, start CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) by giving chest compressions and rescue breaths.
  7. Defibrillation: Apply the defibrillator as soon as possible if one is available.

Important distinctions for performing CPR on Children.

For children under 12 months old. It is essential only to UTILISE a head tilt when clearing the airways. Children under 12 months have a narrow, more fragile airway than adults. Applying a head tilt to an infant could cause damage to the airway.

Similarly, it would be best not to use a defibrillator (automated external defibrillator or AED) on someone under 12 months old in Australia. Using a defibrillator (automated external defibrillator or AED) on infants under 12 months old is generally not recommended because infants and very young children typically experience cardiac arrest due to different underlying causes compared to adults and older children.

In pediatric cases, the most common cause of cardiac arrest is usually a respiratory issue, such as choking, drowning, or a respiratory infection, rather than a primary heart rhythm disturbance like ventricular fibrillation, which is more common in adult cardiac arrests.

Using a defibrillator in cases of pediatric cardiac arrest is a complex matter, requiring specialised pediatric equipment and training. Standard adult AEDs are designed for adults and may not deliver the appropriate energy levels or waveform for infants, which could potentially be harmful (source: The Australian Resuscitation Council guidelines).

For Children aged between 12 months old and approximately ten years old. In step 4, when opening the airways, it is essential to ascertain the approximate age of the young person. This information will impact how far you should tilt the head back. As a rule, you should utilise a partial head tilt if the child is over twelve months old up to around eight years old. That is, only tilt the head back gently and about half of the distance of that of an adult. Try tilting your head back for a moment. A child’s head tilt would be approximately half of this distance.

Danger: Determine if the child is in trouble and call for help

Step one in the DRSABCD action plan is to check for danger. Check the area first. Is it safe for you and the child? Can you move the risk away or take the child to a safer place if the risk is there? Do this fast. If it is safe, see if the child responds to you.

Responsiveness: Check for responsiveness

Call their name and squeeze their shoulders, while asking them questions loudly and assertively. You can use the C.O.W.S acronym. Ask in a loud voice, Can you hear me? Open your eyes? wake up? Squeeze my hand? If there is no response, move quickly to the next step.

A man dialing Triple 000 (emergency services) on his smartphone for immediate help."
In times of crisis, every moment counts. Dial Triple 000 for help.

Send for Help: Dial Triple Zero (000)

Pick up your phone right away!  Dial triple zero (000 in Australia) – try to stay calm and ask for an ambulance.

Or press 112 on your mobile phone. In Australia, you can call 112 on mobile phones for emergencies because 112 is a universal emergency number that works across most countries worldwide, including Australia. The use of 112 for emergencies on mobile phones is part of an international standard agreed upon by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Stay calm as you talk with an operator who will tell you what to do next.

Airways: Clear and open the airway. (Tilt the head back for those over twelve months old.)

The next step is to open their airway so it’s easier for them to breathe. Carefully tilt their head back (see instructions above for children under twelve months old) using one hand on their forehead and two fingers under the chin. Now you have cleared their airway and made sure of responsiveness, too!

A head tilt-chin lift maneuver is used when clearing the airway during CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) to help open the victim’s airway and facilitate effective breathing. This technique is employed for individuals who are unresponsive and not breathing normally. Here’s why it’s important:

  1. Prevents Airway Obstruction: In an unresponsive person, the tongue and soft tissues of the throat can fall backward and block the airway. The head tilt-chin lift maneuver helps to lift and move the tongue and other obstructions away from the back of the throat, allowing air to flow into the lungs.
  2. Optimizes Airflow: By tilting the head backward and lifting the chin, you create a more direct and open path for air to travel into the lungs. This maximises the chances of getting adequate oxygen to the person’s lungs and brain.
  3. Promotes Proper Breathing: It’s easier to give rescue breaths during CPR when the airway is clear. The head tilt-chin lift helps maintain an open airway, making your breath more likely to inflate the person’s lungs effectively.

I’d like to point out that this maneuver should be performed carefully to avoid excessive head movement, especially if there is a suspicion of a neck or spine injury. In such cases, manual head and neck stabilisation should be done to maintain alignment while still attempting to clear the airway.

Breathing: Check if the child is breathing and begin CPR if necessary

Could you look at the child’s chest? Is it moving? Put your ear near their mouth. Can you hear or feel their breath? If not, CPR must start right away. CPR steps are easy to follow. First, could you lay the casualty flat on their back?

"A man gently checking a baby's breathing by placing his hand near the baby's nose and mouth."
The image shows a caring man carefully assessing a baby’s breathing. He is gently placing his hand near the baby’s nose and mouth to feel for any signs of breath, a common practice to ensure the well-being of infants. T

CPR: Perform chest compressions and rescue breaths.

When performing chest compressions and rescue breaths on a child, follow the same ratio of breaths to contractions as an adult. That is, thirty chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. Kneel by their side and place one hand on the other in the middle of the chest. Push hard and fast about two times every second until help comes or they breathe again.

Remember: Using an automated external defibrillator (AED) can also save lives if one is nearby! When you call for help, ask if there is an AED around you can use.

These steps work best for kids over 12 months old.


A man performing CPR on a baby, using gentle chest compressions
Every second counts. CPR can make a lifesaving difference.

Defibrillation: Use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if available

An AED can make a big difference in saving a child’s life. The machine checks the heart rate and can send an electric shock to help it return to normal. First, turn on the AED and follow its voice commands.

Could you place the pads on the child’s chest, as shown in pictures on the AED? Press “shock” if told by the AED machine. Don’t touch the child when giving shocks with an AED! Learning how to use these machines before something terrible happens would be best.

Training classes for using an AED are there for parents and caregivers so they know what to do in an emergency.


A man performing rescue breaths on a child during a lifesaving rescue.
A moment of courage and compassion. They are giving hope through rescue breaths.

CPR Techniques for Babies and Older Children

For babies under one year, perform chest compressions using two fingers in the centre of their chest.

Chest compressions for babies under one year

Doing chest compressions on babies under one year is part of CPR. It starts with placing two fingers in the centre of the baby’s chest. You need to press down about a third of the way into the chest at a quick speed.

The right speed is around 100-120 pushes every minute. This helps blood flow in their little bodies when their heart isn’t beating well. Keep this up till help comes.

Chest compressions for children over one year

Doing chest compressions on kids over one year is critical in CPR. It’s done using one or two hands to push on the lower part of the breastbone. Your push should cause the chest to go down about a third of its full depth.

The best speed for these pushes is 100-120 times each minute. After you do this 30 times, give them two breaths. Open their airway and gently blow air into their mouth. Keep doing CPR until help comes or if the child starts moving again.

Rescue breaths for babies and children

  • Rescue breaths for babies and children are essential in CPR.
  • After performing chest compression, open the child’s airway.
  • Tilt the head slightly and lift the chin to open the airway (for babies and infants over 12 months old).
  • Pinch the child’s nose shut with your fingers.
  • Take a normal breath and cover the child’s mouth with yours, creating a seal.
  • Blow steadily into the child’s mouth for about one second, watching their chest rise.
  • Give two rescue breaths, ensuring each breath raises the chest.

CPR Training and Certification

Parents and caregivers can significantly benefit from CPR training, which provides essential life-saving skills for child emergencies. You can check out our courses by clicking here. First Aid HQ has several options to suit everyone’s needs.

Importance of CPR training for parents and caregivers

CPR training is essential for parents and caregivers because it equips them with the knowledge and skills to respond quickly in emergencies, potentially saving a child’s life.

By learning CPR techniques, parents can confidently perform chest compressions and rescue breaths if their child stops breathing or their heart stops beating. Training also teaches how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if available.

With CPR certification, parents and caregivers can provide immediate assistance during critical moments until professional help arrives. Online classes make it convenient for busy individuals to learn independently from home.

CPR training courses and resources

You can learn how to perform CPR on a child by taking CPR training courses and using helpful resources. Here are some options:

  • Online classes: There are online courses available that allow you to learn CPR from the comfort of your own home. These classes provide step-by-step instructions and demonstrations, making understanding and practising the techniques easy.
  • In-person classes: Many organisations offer in-person CPR training courses where you can receive hands-on instruction. These classes are led by certified instructors who will guide you through the proper techniques.
  • First aid manuals: You can find first aid manuals that include detailed instructions on CPR on a child. These manuals provide written explanations, illustrations, and helpful tips.
  • Videos and tutorials: Various websites and platforms offer instructional videos and tutorials demonstrating CPR techniques for children. Watching these videos can help you visualise the steps and improve your understanding.
  • Apps: Some apps provide interactive simulations or virtual training sessions for learning CPR. These apps may include quizzes, practice scenarios, and real-time feedback to enhance your skills.

Certification options for CPR training

There are different certification options available for CPR training. Here are some of them:

  • The website offers CPR certification programs for healthcare providers.
  • Online classes are available for CPR certification and renewal.
  • The website also offers certification programs for advanced lifesaving skills like ALS and PALS training.
  • Certification is available for first aid, CPR, AED, lifeguarding, and nurse assistant/CNA training.
  • There are options for in-person classes and remote learning through online courses.

Conclusion: The Importance of Knowing CPR for Child Emergencies

Knowing how to perform CPR on a child could save their life in an emergency. Following the steps outlined in this blog can prepare you to provide vital assistance until help arrives.

CPR training is essential for parents and caregivers as it equips them with the skills to respond effectively in a crisis.


1. What is CPR, and why is it essential for a child?

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is an essential life support skill when a child’s heart stops beating. It’s crucial because it can save the child’s life.

2. How do I perform CPR on a baby or child?

Firstly, ensure safety by checking the scene for danger using DRS ABCD, which stands for “Check for Danger”, “Check for Response”, “Send for Help”, “Open the child’s Airway”, “Check if the child is Breathing normally” and then ‘Start CPR’. If you are unsure how to perform these steps, seek help from an online Red Cross class or other first aid training.

3. Can anyone learn to give CPR to children?

Yes! Anyone can take part in Child and Baby CPR classes. The Red Cross provides Basic Life Support (BLS) training courses suitable even if you have no prior knowledge.

4. Is CPR different between infants and adults?

Yes, there are critical differences in CPR between infants over 12 months of age and adults, like breath numbers given per minute. Details about this topic can be found in any good First Aid Library like that provided by Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network.

5. When should I use an AED on a child?

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) should only be used during emergencies where both breathing and heartbeat have stopped after calling Emergency Medical Services (EMS), also known as 9-1-1

6. Can Babysitting and childcare Certification teach me how to do childcare First Aid?

Absolutely! Proving first aid knowledge, such as conducting proper water safety procedures and BLS Certification Renewal, is part of Babysitting and childcare Training.


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