“The neighbor’s baby won’t wake up!”

That’s what my spouse told me when I answered the phone last week. I could hear the mother screaming hysterically behind her voice. At first, I didn’t understand. For me, the neighbor is next door – to our right. I know them well, but they don’t have a baby. Then I understood.

The neighbor across the street, the one we almost never talk to with the beautiful little baby of a few months. I had so many questions that went through my head in 0.03 seconds:
Why did they call me? I am a nurse (although I am not currently in the network, but that’s for another time).
What happened to the baby? Honestly, at the time, we don’t care.
How was my spouse the one who was there? We don’t care either.

I realized that I probably needed to be called because he didn’t know what to do, and was waiting for the ambulance with the mom.

I was able to pull myself together and ask my spouse, “Is she breathing?”
“I think so.”
“Well? What color is she?”
“Not blue”

“It’s okay! – Calm the mother down.”
“How do I calm the mother? What do I do for the baby?”

“Nothing, calm the mother.”

I’m sure many of you have asked yourselves this question. You must be wondering why I didn’t explain to her what to check with the child or how to try to wake her up. It’s simple, because he didn’t know what to do and besides and he doesn’t have the assessment skills to undertake anything and I certainly wasn’t going to give him CPR 101 on the fly. The child was breathing and she was well colored (not blue) so she could wait for the paramedics who would arrive any minute. Even if she didn’t wake up, her body, her brain and the rest of her organs were getting oxygen and that was good enough for me.

In contrast, I could hear the mother being hysterical(with good reason) in the background. This mom was having the worst day of her life I am sure and in this state she was not able to help us resuscitate her baby. It was crucial that he was able to calm her down so that when the paramedics arrived, she would be able to give all the necessary information to the responders and be a comforting presence for the child. The paramedics needed to be able to do their job and focus on the child rather than the mother. Of course they can do it, but it’s never optimal.

I arrived home at the same time as the paramedics. I saw the mother, calm, giving the information to the paramedic while the first responders and the second paramedic were busy around the baby.

He had succeeded!

All I had to do was to disperse the curious people who had gathered near the house.

All of this is to say that even if you don’t know what to do in such a situation, there is always something you can do. Especially when it comes to a child. If help has been called, the child is breathing and is well (or relatively well) colored, take the time to calm the parent(s), the child’s life depends on it:

– Tell them what you see, “She’s well colored, she’s breathing, I see movement etc.”
– Reassure them that you will remain in place until help arrives. If you are absolutely unable to stay because there is a safety risk for you or your children (e.g. they are in the pool, home alone etc.) or any other major reason, try to find someone else who can stay. If not, call for help and tell the adult to stay on the phone with them.

  • Tell them how much time has passed and how much time you think is left until help arrives. Ex: We called 4 minutes ago, I am sure they will arrive in 1 to 5 minutes.
  • Encourage them to recall important details when asked or simply to tell you what happened. In this way, the parent will have had a chance to sort out his or her thoughts.
  • If the parent does not calm down and the panic and/or agitation seems to be getting worse, offer to hold the child (if it is an infant) or move slightly away from the child. Reassure them firmly that you are staying with the child.
  • Disperse the curious.


Don’t hesitate to recruit help if there are other family members or siblings on site. The important thing is to be there and simply do your best.

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