Today I’m trying… baby first aid with St John’s Ambulance

“Learning baby CPR is like having car insurance – you hope you never need it, but if you do need it you’re ever so grateful you have it.”

Katy Pearson pregnant - picture by Sarah Briggs
Baby first aid: Putting this worried mama-to-be’s mind slightly more at ease (PHOTO BY SARAH BRIGGS)

These are the opening words said in my three-hour baby first aid class with St John’s Ambulance.

The sessions, which are held all over Essex, cover everything from the correct recovery position for babies (cradled in your arms with their head tilted downwards – not on the floor on their side like adults), CPR and choking to dealing with fevers, croup and burns.

At eight-months pregnant with my first child, and by nature something of a worrier, I was prompted to take the class after the UK’s leading first aid charity aired its new Nursery Rhymes Inc advert – in which a short video featuring the stars of Nursery Rhymes Inc shows how to do baby CPR.

The campaign was launched after parents told the charity that their baby not breathing was the first aid emergency they feared the most, yet only one in four knew what to do.

I was soon to be one of them. And the thought of being clueless – or doing the wrong thing – should I ever find myself in that nightmare situation, quite frankly terrified me.

The most recent figures from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health show that in the UK, more than 3,500 under ones died in 2012. The Child Death Review Annual Report 2014-2015 by Southend, Essex and Thurrock Councils shows there were 77 notifications of deaths of children living in the area between April 2014 and March 2015.

Baby recovery position
Baby recovery position

And while we have one of the most advanced health systems in the world, the UK actually has one of worst child mortality rates in Western Europe.

Figures like these are scary at the best of times – but as an about to be new mum they’re the stuff nightmares are made of.

When I was six, one of my younger brothers choked on a sausage at dinnertime. Thankfully a big whack on his back by my dad managed to dislodge it and Luke was fine. But that was more luck than anything else – my dad had no training and just did what he thought was best and luckily it worked.

And while learning first aid is no guarantee that you’ll be able to actually save a life – it does offer a measure of reassurance and *could* quite literally be the difference between the life and death of a little one.

In the class, which costs £30 and was held in Chelmsford, I was joined by another eight-month pregnant woman and a new mum. All of us were united in our worry that we just didn’t know what we should do if our babies were to stop breathing or choke or go unconscious.

And spending a morning getting hands-on (with dummy baby Annie) experience of life-saving techniques was probably one of the most reassuring things a mum or mum-to-be can do.

Now, while I hope I never ever have to put into practice anything I have learned either with my child or another parents’ little one, at least I know that I can do more than scream in terror and waste precious minutes while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

For more information or to book a class go to


What to do if your baby isn’t breathing…

1 Call 999 for an ambulance. If you’re on your own you need to give one minute’s worth of CPR before you can call for help, taking your baby with you.

2 Five puffs. Put your lips around their mouth and nose and blow steadily for up to one second. Give five puffs.

3 30 pumps. Using two fingers in the centre of the chest, give 30 pumps at a rate of 100-120 per minute (baby’s hearts beat much faster than adults.)

4 Repeat two puffs and 30 pumps. Continue CPR until help arrives.


What to do if your baby is choking…

1 Check their mouth. Call an ambulance

2 Slap it out. Lay your baby face down on your thigh and support their head. Give up to five firm blows between their shoulder blades.

3 Squeeze it out. Using two fingers, give up to five chest thrusts.

4 Check the mouth. If the obstruction hasn’t cleared repeat steps 2 and 3 until an ambulance arrives.

5 If the baby stops breathing, start CPR

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