Becoming a parent is both exhilarating and terrifying. You've probably imagined everything that could possibly go wrong and if you have, you're not alone. More experienced parents (and statistics) will tell you to relax and just do your best — most things will turn out fine. But that doesn't mean you're off the hook in the preparedness department.

As motivational speaker Denis Waitley says: Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.

There couldn't be a more fitting parenting motto. And one of the best things you can do as a parent is to learn infant CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Potential emergencies that may require you to use CPR to save your baby's life include near-drowning, suffocation, accidental poisoning, smoke inhalation and suspected sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

We asked expert Tia Raymond, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Medical City Children's Hospital, to show and tell the correct techniques for performing infant CPR. We also recommend that you attend an infant CPR class at your local hospital or Red Cross location.

Assess the infant's condition.

Once you have determined that the baby is not breathing and is not alert and awake, you need to call 911. If you are not alone, one person makes the call while the other tends to the infant. If you are alone, follow these steps before calling for help.

  • Prepare the baby for the assessment
    • Place the infant on a flat, hard surface
    • Remove any clothing
  • Feel for a pulse
    • Place your index and middle fingers on the inner aspect of the baby's arm (in the crook of the elbow, where blood is typically drawn)
    • Check for 5-10 seconds only
    • If you don't feel a pulse, begin chest compressions

How to perform chest compressions on an infant.

  • Place your index and middle fingers vertically down the middle of the breastbone underneath the nipple line
  • Begin compressions by pushing down on the chest at least 1.5 inches — don't worry, you won't push too hard
  • Allow the chest to come back up between compressions
  • Hum the Bee Gees classic “Stayin' Alive” to get the correct rate of 100/120 compressions a minute (the same rate as for adult/hands-only CPR)
  • Perform 30 compressions and then move on to rescue breathing

How to perform rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) on an infant.

  • With one hand, tilt the baby's head back, lifting the chin to open the airway
  • With the other hand, pinch the baby's nose to close the nostrils
  • Put your mouth over the infant's mouth
  • Deliver a full one-second rescue breath
  • You should have sufficient air blowing into the baby to see both chest walls rise
  • Perform 2 rescue breaths and then go back to chest compressions

Alternate 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths for 2 minutes, then call 911. (Two minutes equals about 3 to 4 cycles of alternating compressions and breaths.)

When you call for help, be sure the infant won't roll off of a high surface if he or she wakes up. After placing the call, return to the infant and resume CPR, once again alternating 30 chest compressions with 2 rescue breaths until help arrives.

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