Introduction: Prematurely born infants regularly develop respiratory distress syndrome and require assisted ventilation. Ventilation may injure the premature lung and increase the risk of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a form of noninvasive ventilation, is commonly used in modern neonatology. Limited clinical data are available on the acute and long-term effect of neonatal exposure to CPAP on the lung. Given the restricted clinical data, newborn animal models have been used to study the influence of CPAP on lung structure and function. The findings of animal studies can guide neonatal care and improve the use of CPAP. Methods: A systematic review of electronic databases (Medline, Embase, and Cinahl) was performed using the medical subject heading terms, “CPAP” or “continuous positive airway pressure” and “animals” and “newborn.” Abstracts were screened for inclusion using predetermined eligibility criteria. Results: In total, 235 abstracts were identified and screened for inclusion. Of these, 21 papers were included. Large (N = 18) and small (N = 3) animal models investigated the effects of CPAP. Pulmonary outcomes included gas exchange, lung structure and function, surfactant metabolism, lung inflammation and injury, and the effect of intrapulmonary therapy. Compared to mechanical ventilation, CPAP improves lung function, evokes less lung injury, and does not disrupt alveolar development. Surfactant administration combined with CPAP further improves respiratory outcomes. Of concern are findings that CPAP may increase airway reactivity. Discussion/Conclusion: CPAP offers numerous advantages over mechanical ventilation for the immature lung. The combination of CPAP and exogenous surfactant administration offers further pulmonary benefit.