As neonatal resuscitation critically depends upon lung aeration at birth, knowledge of the progression of this process is required to guide ongoing care. We investigated whether expired CO2 (ECO2) levels indicate the degree of lung aeration immediately after birth in two animal models and in preterm infants. Lambs were delivered by caesarean section and ventilated from birth. In lambs, ECO2 levels were significantly (p10 mmHg 28 (median) (21-36) seconds before the heart rate increased above 100 beats per minute. These data demonstrate that ECO2 levels can indicate the relative degree of lung aeration after birth and can be used to clinically assess ventilation in the immediate newborn period.