How to Check Your Baby’s Vital Signs
Your baby’s breathing and heart rate can tell you a lot about their condition. These vital signs can be important indicators that something is wrong or that it’s time to seek medical attention. We’ll tell you how to check your baby’s breathing rate and pulse and explain what the normal results are for babies and toddlers.
Your baby’s heart rate, or pulse, tells you how many times his tiny heart is beating per minute. It can also be used to check the strength and regularity of his heartbeat. You may have taken your own pulse by holding your fingers to your neck or wrist, and taking your baby’s is just a little different.
The American Red Cross recommends that babies’ pulses be taken at their arm, along the underside between the armpit and the elbow. This is the brachial artery, which is easier to access in babies than the carotid artery at the neck. Once you’ve located the pulse, which feels like a light throbbing, you’ll want to time it with a timer.
Set your timer for 30 seconds and count how many pulses you feel until the timer goes off. Multiply this number by two, and you’ll get the baby’s beats per minute, or bpm. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a normal heart rate for a baby under one year old is between 100 and 160 beats per minute. For toddlers, it’s between 70 and 120 beats per minute. Anything outside this range is considered high or low.
Now it’s time to check your baby’s breathing rate. It’s done in much the same way as checking his pulse. You’ll want to listen carefully for his tiny baby breaths, and count how many full breaths occur in one minute (this can take several tries!).
Babies, especially newborns, tend to breathe much faster than adults. The AAFP says a normal respiratory rate for an infant from birth to six months old is 30-60 breaths per minute. For a child between six months and one year old, it’s between 24 and 30 breaths per minute. And for a toddler, it’s 20 to 30 breaths per minute.
In case you were wondering, the normal body temperature for a baby is the same as for an adult—right around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Experts say a temperature above 99.6 degrees is high.
If you notice your baby’s vital signs are outside the normal range, it’s time to call your doctor for professional medical advice.