How to Rescue an Infant from Choking

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Infant with Spoon

How to Rescue an Infant from Choking

The First Aid Canada team hopes you never have to be put into the position of saving an infant’s life, however it is valuable to know the steps on how to proceed if you ever find yourself faced with this reality.


Step 1: Assess the Situation

Is the infant crying or coughing? Is their face turning red or blue?

If the infant is unable to cry or cough this means there is most likely something blocking their airway. Their skin may be turning bright red or blue.

If the infant is coughing or gagging this means their airway is only partially blocked. If this is the case allow the infant to cough as this is the single most effective way to dislodge a blockage.

If the infant is unable to dislodge the blockage ask someone to call 9-1-1 while you begin back blows and chest thrusts. If you happen to be alone in this situation give two minutes of care then proceed by calling 9-1-1.

If you suspect that the infant’s airway is closing due to an allergy, for example bee sting call 9-1-1 immediately.

Step 2: Try to Dislodge the Object with Back Blows and Chest Thrusts

First, back blows.

If the infant is conscious, but can’t cough, cry or breath and you believe something is obstructing their airway carefully position them face up on one forearm, cradling the back of their head with that hand. Place your other hand and forearm on their front so the infant is stomach down, braced and fully supported between your forearms.

Use your thumb and fingers to hold their jaw and turn them over so that the infant is facedown along the other forearm. Lower your arm onto your thigh so the infant’s head is lower than their chest.

Using the heel of your hand, deliver five firm and distinct back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades in attempt to dislodge the obstruction within the airway. Maintain support of the head and neck by firmly holding their jaw between your thumb and forefinger.

Next, place your free hand, the one that had previously been delivering the back blows on the back of the infant’s head with your arm along their spine. Turn the infant over while keeping your other hand and forearm on their front.

Then, chest thrusts

Use your thumb and fingers to hold the infant’s jaw while holding them between your forearms (similar to a sandwich). This is to support the head and neck. Next, lower your arm that is supporting the infant’s back onto your opposite thigh. Be sure to keep the infant’s head lower than the rest of their body.

Place the pads of two or three fingers in the center of the infant’s chest between their nipples. Push straight down on the chest about 1 1/2 inches to perform a chest thrust. Allow the chest to come back to its normal position.

Do five smooth chest thrusts. Keep your fingers in contact with the infant’s breastbone.

Repeat back blows and chest thrusts.

Continue alternating five back blows and five chest thrusts until the object is forced out or the infant starts to cough forcefully, cry, or breathe on their own. If the infant is coughing, let them try to cough up the object on their own.

If the infant becomes unconscious, you will need to perform modified CPR.

How to perform modified CPR on as infant:

  • Open mouth and look for an object 
  • If visible, remove object with little finger
  • Give two rescue breaths 
  • If the air doesn’t go in (you don’t see his chest rise), tilt head and try two more rescue breaths 
  • If chest still doesn’t rise, do 30 chest compressions
  • Look in his mouth and remove the object if you see it 
  • Give him two more rescue breaths
  • Repeat chest compressions and so on, until help arrives

Performing CPR:

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is the next step to take to save an infant’s life when they are showing no signs of life (consciousness or breathing).

CPR uses chest compressions and rescue breaths to make sure oxygen rush blood circulates through the brain and other vital organs. Without oxygenated blood being delivered to the vital organs brain damage and death can occur in just a few short minutes.

Step 1: Check the Baby’s Condition

Is the infant conscious?

If the infant doesn’t appear to be conscious have someone call 9-1-1. If no one is available to call, give the infant two minutes of care then proceed by calling 9-1-1.

Gently place the infant on their back on a firm, flat surface.

Be sure to check if the infant isn’t bleeding severely. If there is blood take measures to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the area. Do not administer CPR until the bleeding is under control.

Step 2: Open the Infant’s Airway

Gently tilt the infant’s head back with one hand and lift the chin slightly with the other. Keep in mind you do not have to tilt the infant’s head back too much to open up the airway.

Next, check for signs of breathing (no longer than 10 seconds).

To check for signs of breathing place your head down to their mouth, looking towards their feet. Look to see if their chest is rising and listen for sounds of breathing – you should be able to feel a breath on your cheek.

Step 3: Give Two Gentle Rescue Breaths

If the infant isn’t breathing give two gentle breaths, each lasting one second. Cover the infant’s nose and mouth with your mouth and gently exhale into their lungs until you see the chest rise. Be sure to pause between rescue breaths to let the air flow back out.

Keep in mind that the infant’s lungs are much smaller and require less than a full breath to be filled. Breathing too fast or too hard can force air into the infant’s stomach.

If the infant’s chest doesn’t rise her airway is blocked.

Step 4: Do 30 Chest Compressions

With the infant still lying on their back, place two or three of your fingertips onto the centre of their chest on the imaginary line between their nipples.

Compress the chest about one and a half inches. Push straight down on the infant’s chest. Continue 30 compressions at the rate of 100 per minute, it is helpful at this time to count out loud, “one and two and three…”

When you complete 30 compressions, give two of the rescue breaths described above. Each cycle of compressions should take about 24 seconds.

Step 5: Repeat Compressions and Breaths

Repeat the sequence of 30 compressions and two breaths. If you are alone with the infant call 9-1-1 after two minutes of care.

Continue the sequence of compressions and breaths until help arrives at the scene. Even if the infant seems fine by the time emergency personnel arrive a doctor will need to check her to make sure her airway is completely clear and no internal injuries have resulted.

May you never have to perform this procedure.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact The First Aid Canada Team: 1-855-322-4243

Life is Precious. Be Prepared.