Learn basic baby first aid, so you know what to do if you have to…

The St John Ambulance Brigade was established in 1887.  The distinctive eight point star worn on volunteers’ uniform dates back even further to eleventh century Jerusalem, where the Knights of St John created a hospital to look after sick pilgrims.  Fast forward to the twenty-first century and St John Ambulance is the leading provider of First Aid Courses in the UK.

My partner, Dani, and I are expecting our first child in August.  We are excited but, perhaps understandably, a little apprehensive about some of the challenges that we, in common with all first time parents, will face.  We recently attended a baby First Aid Course run by St John Ambulance, the UK’s largest provider of First Aid Courses, at St John House on Crossley Road in Stockport.  The three hour course may be the most useful training we have ever received, though we hope that we will never have to use anything we learnt.  We would highly recommend it to any other expecting parents.


Our trainer, Beverley Latham, was extremely knowledgeable and engaging.  She patiently answered questions from our group of fourteen, which consisted of twelve parents to be and two current parents.

“Basic first aid can save a baby’s life,
And it’s easy to learn
There’s no need for any strife”.

Baby Primary Survey

In the event that a baby stops breathing, first aiders need to check for a response by tapping baby’s foot or calling baby’s name.  Open their airway and listen (for breathing); feel (for breathing); look at their chest.  Tilt baby’s head and raise their chin.  Then check for breathing and bleeding.

Baby Recovery Position

What to do:
Cradle the baby in your arms, with baby’s head titled downward and away from your body so as not to impede their breathing.  Call for an ambulance.  Beverley recommended calling 112, the European Union wide free phone emergency number, as an alternative to 999.  Whilst you wait for the ambulance to arrive, monitor baby closely.

Baby CPR

What to do:
Call an ambulance – Ensure baby is on a hard flat surface like a kitchen table or the floor, not somewhere where they might slide like on a leather sofa. Open airways; allow ten seconds for baby to respond.
If there is no response give five puffs of breath.  Each puff of breath is equivalent to blowing out a candle.
Give thirty pumps on baby’s chest, using two fingers on the centre nipple line.  Then call an ambulance.  Do two compressions a second. “Make sure you do not apply pressure to the ribs, bottom end of the breastbone or upper abdomen”. (St John Ambulance Guide, 3rd edition, London, 2014, p.40).
Repeat two puffs and thirty pumps, until the ambulance comes.

Babies do not carry residual oxygen.  It is crucial to support baby’s head.

If baby shows signs of life. Stop. Put baby in recovery position.

If resuscitator feels faint. Stop take a deep breath or two. Resume.

Baby CPR

As an attendee it was good because we all had the opportunity to practice performing CPR on a baby mannequin.  The resuscitator’s whole mouth needs to cover baby’s nose and mouth.  This is easier than it sounds.  So, it was good to have a friendly, experienced expert on hand to provide guidance on where we were going right and wrong.

“A newborn baby
Can cause many a worry,
So here are some answers
You can learn in a hurry.”

The St John Ambulance video Learn Baby CPR with Nursery Rhymes Inc  is well worth watching.


Participants then learnt about what to do in the event that their infant/baby-to-be has a fever.

What to do:
Check baby’s temperature, if it is unusual get medical help.
Make baby cool and comfortable, giving them frequent drinks

Beverley: “You know your baby. Keep air circulating. Do not open windows as this creates a draft”.

Monitor your baby

39 C 3 months + seek help
38 C under 3 months – seek help
37 C Fever

Meningitis and septicaemia

Beverley gave an insight into how parents, family and carers could spot the signs of meningitis and septicaemia.  The well-crafted presentation slides included a link to Holly’s Story, a YouTube video by the Meningitis Research Foundation in which Norman Pace recounts how his daughter, Holly, contracted the disease.

What to do
Call an ambulance – follow your instincts.
Check your baby for signs of a rash – not all babies and young people develop a rash. Look for signs of limpness, high pitched crying (which does not sound natural), reluctance to feed.
Keep baby cool and hydrated
Monitor your baby.

In the event baby chokes

What to do:
Check the mouth.
Slap it out – five slaps, support chin. (The slaps should be proportinate to baby’s size).
Squeeze it out – five chest thrusts (then repeat slaps if necessary).
Check the object is out.
If it is not out, call for help.

171 image - infant choking

Never ever put your fingers into someone’s mouth if they’re choking. This will restrict airwaves, possibly stimulating the bite and gag reflex.

A child or adult who is choking will make a lot of noise; a baby will not.

Be conscious babies will pick up tiny objects – coins, beads etc.

After three cycles – Continue to do CPR.
If a bit comes out still head to hospital. The item can then be removed.

For an interactive description of what to do in the event that a baby chokes watch the following video  #TheChokeables on the St John Ambulance website.

Beverley also explained what to do in the event that baby has a febrile convulsion or crup.  Additionally, the mother and grandmother told us what to do if older babies (those who around nine months old) are bleeding or bump.  She stressed that it was our right to ask for a second medical opinion in the event that we had to go to hospital with our children.

 At £30 per person the course represents excellent value and may constitute the best money you have ever spent.  Click here for information about a St John Ambulance Baby First Aid Course near you.  After the course attendees receive a very thorough, yet accessible, St John Amulance First Aid Reference Guide.
Twitter account: @stjohnambulance. Hashtags #babyCPR and #TheChokeables.



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