When you become pregnant, you realize quickly how many classes are at your disposal. Half a dozen different birthing style classes, basic infant care, introducing your baby to your dog, baby massage, baby wearing, cloth diapering, the list is endless. But there is one class that should be a non-negotiable MUST for every new set of parents (and grandparents too), and that is Infant and Child CPR. While the other classes have great information, this is the class that could save your child’s life.
Close to 3000 people choke to death every year, and 2/3 of the children who choked were under three years old, with 70% of the items causing the blockage being toys and household items. Despite my very best efforts to perfectly baby proof, there are things that you just don’t look at and think “If I were a baby I would put this in my mouth”. Like the perfect-for-choking-sized rubber tip on the spring stoppers behind doors. I looked over one day and my son had pried one off and was aiming it towards his mouth. Or another time at a birthday party he was playing with a ball, and suddenly sunk his newly grown front teeth into it and bit off a chunk of foam – I had no idea the ball was foam and not rubber and frantically fished the piece out of his mouth. The point is – things can happen despite all your best efforts.
I had taken two CPR classes before, but neither one discussed infant CPR, and let’s face it – if you don’t practice it and refresh your memory every once in awhile, you forget it. Plus, CPR methods change from time to time so it’s important to keep updated with the latest information. So when a fantastic mommy friend of mine took it upon herself to contact the local fire department and ask if someone would be willing to teach a class for us if we got enough people, I jumped at the chance to learn this life-saving skill.
Over a dozen moms from our playgroup signed up, and we were able to have the class held at a beautiful grassy park. The fireman brought adult and infant-sized dummies and detailed pamphlets. After going over the basics, we had lots of hands-on time to practice both CPR and choking first aid. Unlike dummies I’d used in my previous classes, these ones had nifty multi-colored light-up panels that let you know whether your chest compressions were “green” – the proper pressure and speed, “yellow” – meh you’re doing ok but come on, put your back into it, or “red” – your dummy is toast. We all peppered the fireman with rapid-fire questions – what happens if your baby falls in a pool? Touches a light socket? Seems to be choking but is still coughing? And with each answer and each “green” panel light-up, I truly felt like if something happened to my son, I could do this.
During the class, the fireman kept repeating that it had to become “muscle memory” to really stick, which I really took to heart. So I wrote on the first of every month on my calendar a tiny “CPR”, and at the start of every month I haul out my son’s Sleepy Time Elmo, along with the pamphlet we were given at the class, and spend ten minutes or so going through the steps again to keep it active in my mind.
Whether you’ve taken a class or not, always take simple precautions to reduce the risk of choking. Cut up all firm or round foods – such as hot dogs, grapes, or raw veggies – into small pieces, even after they have their molars and seem to be able to chew fairly well. Hard or sticky candies, nuts and popcorn can also be choking hazards. Don’t let your child wander around or play while eating, as food can get inadvertently stuck in their airway through a sudden movement. Don’t allow your child to play with toys meant for older children, and double check everything within their reach to make sure things like pen caps, coins and batteries are not accessible. Also remember that if a child has swallowed something and is coughing hard, this is a good thing – that means they are still getting air and are trying to push the object out of the airway. A child no longer coughing, with wide-eyes, blue-tinged lips, inward pulled chest (like they’re trying to suck in a breath), lack of sound and loss of consciousness can all be a sign of choking, but you really need to take a class to get more specifics.
Classes are generally only an hour or two, and can be found at a variety of locations. Some classes are offered for free, while others might be a small fee (mine was $20) and at the end you’ll be given a CPR Certified card. I want every one of you reading this, if you haven’t taken a class yet, to stop everything and Google “Infant CPR Training” and sign up for a class tonight. Within a few weeks of the class that I took, two of the moms reported having successfully used the Heimlich maneuver on their choking baby. It most definitely is the most important class you’ll ever take, and peace of mind is worth every penny.
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