The Best Method to Take an Infant's Pulse

Baby girl with doctor
Doctor takes a baby's pulse using a stethoscope. (Image: rbv/iStock/Getty Images)

The best method to take an infant’s pulse is to listen to the apex of the heart with a stethoscope. In case of an emergency and when you don’t have a stethoscope, check a pulse on the large brachial artery of the infant’s arm. If an infant does not have a pulse, always call 911 while performing chest compressions.

Apical with a Stethoscope

Step 1

Wash your hands and wipe off the ear pieces and diaphragm of your stethoscope with an antiseptic wipe.

Step 2

Insert the ear pieces of the stethoscope into your ears and place the flat side of the diaphragm on the left side of the infant’s chest so its just slightly above the nipple. Locate the area of the chest with the loudest and strongest “lub-dub” sound.

Step 3

Count the heart beat for 30 seconds and then multiply by 2. A normal heart rate for an infant is between 90 and 170 beats. The heart rate will gradually decrease up to age 14.

Brachial Artery Pulse

Step 1

Place your index finger and middle finger on the inside of the infant’s upper arm between the elbow and shoulders. Your fingers will be near the infant’s armpit.

Step 2

Press firmly so your fingers are flat. Find the pulse.

Step 3

Count the beats for 30 seconds. Then, multiple by 2.

Things You'll Need

  • Stethoscope

  • Antiseptic wipe

Tip

Use a watch that counts the seconds to ensure an accurate heart beat reading.

Pulses can also be found on an infant’s wrist at the base of the thumb, to the side of the trachea, on the back of the knees and at the temples.

Warning

Dial 911 if no pulse is found and perform chest compressions. Place three fingers vertically on an infant’s chest with your index finger between the infant’s nipples and your ring finger used as the last finger. Lift the index finger and compress with your ring and middle finger. Perform five compressions for every one breath.
Rapid or slow pulses can indicate an underlying medical problem. Seek assistance from your local emergency room.

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