Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Ultimate (almost) Guide to Feeding Medicine to Toddlers

I know being a parent is going to be challenging. I’ve experienced the breastfeeding difficulties, now dealing with the ‘terrible twos’ and thinking of potty training gives me the headache. But never, not even for once, had I thought that giving medicine would be included in the list of parenting challenges! After all, we didn’t have that problem when Kenan was a baby. So when it did happen, the hubby and I were at a total lost.

Few weeks ago, my boy was prescribed an antibiotic together with several other medications for cough, phlegm and running nose.

While it wasn’t easy peasy giving him the other medications, it was nothing compared to the antibiotic.

For the first two days, we managed to get him to take it, but not without some struggle.

However, from Day 3 onwards, no matter what we did - coax, persuade, scold, threaten, try mixing with milk then chocolate milk – he simply refused. If we did manage to force some in – which took the combined effort of three adults, it would almost always spew out immediately, together with whatever food that was being digested in his stomach. The whole experience left all of us frustrated, exhausted, and to some extent, traumatised.

A week later, we went back for a doctor’s review and I shared with her what happened. After a discussion, the pediatrician felt that a change of medicine to something with more 'palatable' taste and texture might just help.

And it did turn out to be a good decision. By employing two different methods to feed him the medicine and giving him some rewards for the 'suffering' he endured, we succeed in getting him to finish the full course (five days).

What we did to get Kenan to take his antibiotic

1. Mixed it with Meiji chocolate milk (please see No.2 at “More tips” section below). The Meiji brand’s chocolate milk (which is our family’s favourite) is good as it’s thick and very chocolatey, so it helps to mask the taste of the second antibiotic. It didn’t work for the first one though, as that antibiotic was really very strong in smell and taste and the texture was more ‘sandy’/’grainy’ (by the way, dear folks at Meiji, if the milk starts flying off the shelves, how about giving me a commission?)

2. Prepare a cup of honey water (you could try Ribena too). After squinting some antibiotic into his mouth via a syringe, we let him drink a mouthful of honey water and repeat the process until the medication is finished. I adapted this method from Friend LK’s method. She would use two syringes, one with medicine and another one with water, and one teaspoon of honey. Start with medicine (half dose), followed by water and then lastly honey. Repeat the same process for the remaining dose. Do it fast and squirt the syringe at the side of the child’s mouth. Prepare more water and honey if needed.

3. Rewards. Kenan is recently into stickers so I rewarded him with them after he took the medicine. The first day, I gave him a sticker and he was real happy. The next day, he asked for two and I gave him. The third day, he bargained for three! And as you would have guessed by now, he told me he wants four stickers on the fourth day! Oh my, the little boy was keeping track!

The little boy sticking his hard-earned 'reward' into his book

I also shared about the ‘ordeal’ on Facebook and many parent friends shared their experiences with me, together with some great tips to go along. Below is the compilation of the tips.

More tips on feeding medicine

1. When using the syringe, feed it at the corner of the mouth so that it goes directly down the throat and the child doesn’t taste the medicine so much, said Friend S. “I used to squint medicine in the middle and the bitterness just makes my kids react. This method has worked well for me,” she added.

2.  Mix the medication into some food or drinks e.g. yogurt, fruit juice, milk, Ribena. But some will work better than others, depending on the type of medicine and how strong the taste is. So a bit of experimentation is needed here.

3. Not all antibiotics can be mixed with milk, please check with your doctor. When mixing with milk, it might be a good idea to do so with another brand than the one your child normally drinks. As Friend ND noted, “The child may associate milk with medicine in future and lose interest in drinking the milk.” That was true in our case. After I added the antibiotic to his formula (just once) and he rejected it, he was so hesitant to drink his milk when I subsequently gave it to him. But thankfully after explaining to him that it was just plain milk, he took it.

4. Friend MY uses two syringes, one with medicine, the other with water. After giving a bit of medicine, quickly squint in some water from the second syringe to “wash down the medicine”.

5. If your toddler can’t finish the medicine in one sitting, then spread it out. “Give bit by bit, every few minutes, you don’t have to feed all at once”, Friend MY highlighted. This may be tiring for parents but it beats having your child vomits it all out.

6. Give the medicine before food (before you do this, just check with doctor that it’s ok to do so for the particular medicine). I used to think that unless told otherwise, all medication should be taken after food. So when I applied this to feeding medicine to Kenan, we ended up with vomited medicine AND food. Then we not only have to worry about giving him the medicine again, we also had to think about whether to give him some food too since he vomited it out.

7. Lastly, Friend SL uses a very simple trick to get her child to take medicine – she puts two M&Ms into the medicine and viola, no fight, no struggle – the child takes the medicine in one quick mouth.

So there you have it. The art of feeding toddler medicine.  If you have other tips in feeding a toddler medicine, please share with me!


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