Tips for Giving Oral Medications to Babies
by Lisa Greene
Your baby will likely need to take oral antibiotics at some point in the first year of life. This isn't just a CF issue- many babies do. Here are some ideas to help you get liquid medications down the hatch:
1. Swaddle your baby: Use a blanket or towel if necessary to keep your baby's arms from knocking the medicine away.
2. Be happy: Babies pick up on our vibes and facial expressions. Smile and have a pleasant look on your face. Act happy about taking the medicine: "Oh goody! It's medicine time! Yay!" Look up "mirror neurons" for why babies (and others) mirror our own emotions.
3. Use a chaser: Chase the medicine with something your baby loves- like a favorite drink or a healthy popsicle (for an older baby).
4. Chill it: Refrigeration helps to lessen the taste. Ask your pharmacist if it's okay to chill the medication (many antibiotics need to be refrigerated anyways).
5. Sandwich it in between something your baby likes: Popsicles work great for older babies because they numb the tongue and taste good. Let your baby have the popsicle for a couple of minutes, give the medication and then back to the popsicle. Make your own healthy popsicles with blended fruit and milk.
6. Distraction: When your baby is busy concentrating on a toy, sneak in with the medicine. This works well when a baby is in an Exersaucer or sitting on a high chair.
7. Use a baby bottle nipple: Fill the nipple with some milk or juice and get your baby slurping then squirt the medicine into the nipple with the syringe. My son Jacob would slurp down his medication before he knew it was in there. I'd add a milk or juice chaser to rinse out all of the medicine and help get rid of the taste.
8. Commercial medicine helpers: There are plenty of clever products out there to help you get the meds down the hatch including pacifier medicine dispensers, droppers, and special medicine spoons. You can even have your pharmacist make it taste better by adding FlavorX which offers eighteen flavors including bubble gum. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of any such products with younger children.
9. Try a different form: Liquids might not always be the best form. Some require a larger volume to get the dosing that other forms, like pills, may require. As you doctor of a pill or chewable form would would work if it was crushed. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the pill and mix it with something your baby likes including a favorite, sweet baby food.
Whatever method you use, be very careful that your baby is NOT taking a breath when you give liquid medications especially if you are using a syringe (have your pediatrician show you how to best administer liquids to an infant with a syringe). You don't want your baby to accidently breathe in the medication. This is something you should always be aware of when putting liquids in the mouths of babies and young children.
And then of course we have to give our little ones pancreatic enzymes before giving them breast-milk, formula or food. The gold standard of giving enzymes is with applesauce. This is fine even for newborns. You can try it on a spoon but the tongue thrust reflex may end up popping it right back out! You can get it further back into the mouth by dipping your (clean) finger into the applesauce, picking up the enzyme beads with it, and then slipping it into the side of your baby's mouth towards the back if you can get it there. I found that having a syringe (medicine droppper) filled with formula was helpful if I needed to "chase" some of the beads down.
When my kids were newborns, I used a small funnel to give them their enzymes. I would lay them down on their backs, get them to open their mouths, stick the funnel towards the back of the tongue, drop the beads into the funnel and then use a milk chaser (in a syringe) to wash the beads down. This sounds sort of complicated but I was really quick (that's the key) and quickly got to the point where I could just open the capsule, dump the beads onto the back of their tongue and squirt them down with the milk. They both accepted this process very well- maybe because they knew that food was on it's way!
As your baby gets older and will accept the enzymes with applesauce, you can try other fruits like pears, peaches, or plums. In a pinch, grape jam will work and is available at most fast-food restaurants.
However you manage to get the enzymes down, make sure there are no runaway beads caught in between your baby's cheeks and gums. They can cause a painful sore. Also watch for them in the folds of your baby's neck and in their diapers. Yes, diapers! I never did figure out how they'd get in there but somehow they did... There's a lot of baby fat folds in there to check, too.
Before you know it, your little one will be popping those enzymes into their mouths on their own and you'll look back fondly at all of the creative ideas, and crazy stories, you experienced when they were babies. Like the time my Jacob blew his applesauce and enzymes all over the cat....
Lisa C. Greene is the mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, a certified parent coach and public speaker. She is also the co-author with Foster Cline MD of the award-winning Love and Logic book “Parenting Children with Health Issues.” For more information, see www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.
For more Tips for CF Parents, visit Lisa’s website at www.TipsForCFParents.com.