Small baby being given medicine orally

Playing “medicine mom” with a tiny, wriggly infant in your arms can be challenging but you will quickly learn to tell when your infant isn’t well and you may need to administer medicine or drops.

There is only one way to give medicine to your newborn and that is: “Exactly as prescribed”, meaning the “Right Time; Right Dose; Right Medicine”. Also, if you think your baby might be allergic to any medication, you should call your healthcare professional immediately.

How to give a baby ear drops

  1. Wrap your baby snugly in a blanket, ensuring that their arms and legs are out of the way.
  2. Lay your baby down on a firm surface such as a changing mat and tilt their head so that the infected ear is exposed.
  3. Support the neck with an additional blanket or your hand.
  4. Gently insert the dropper about 3mm into the ear, stopping as soon as you meet any resistance.
  5. Squeeze the prescribed number of drops into the ear and press very gently on the front of the ear to help the liquid enter the ear canal.
  6. Keep your baby still for a few minutes to prevent the drops from leaking out of the ear.

How to give a baby eye drops

  1. Hold your baby as you would to administer ear drops.
  2. Securing your baby firmly in the crook of your arm, supporting their neck and head, and tilt their head back slightly.
  3. Rest the dropper against the inside of the nose to prevent you from accidentally poking the dropper into their eye.
  4. Gently squeeze the prescribed number of drops into each eye.

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How to give a baby nose drops

  1. Hold your baby as you would to administer ear drops.
  2. Tilt their head backwards slightly.
  3. Place the snub of the dropper gently inside a nostril and squeeze out the prescribed dosage of drops.
  4. Repeat this process in the other nostril.

How to give a baby syrup or mouth drops

  1. Hold your baby as you would to administer ear drops and lay them down securely on your lap.
  2. Tilt their head slightly back.
  3. Squirt the prescribed dosage into the side of your baby’s mouth slowly, to prevent baby from spluttering or choking.

How to give a baby suppositories

  1. Lay your infant on their back on a firm surface.
  2. Taking both ankles in one hand, gently tuck your baby’s legs onto their tummy.
  3. Dab a little petroleum or KY jelly onto the nose of the suppository and gently, but firmly, insert it into your baby’s anus.
  4. Hold it there for a moment with the tip of your finger. You will feel the suppository slide into the rectum.
  5. If you are too gentle, the anal muscles will reflexively push it out again!

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“Always check the expiry dates and whether or not the medication must be stored in the refrigerator.”

Common questions moms have about giving medicine to babies

Our expert paediatrician, Dr Maraschin, answered a few common questions moms ask us about giving their infants medicine:

Q. What if there is spillage? Do I give the whole dose again?

I advise that parents give medicine in a syringe, a little at a time, down the side of the mouth. This way, if the child spits it out the parent is able to deduce how much has been spilt and can adjust the dose accordingly. Caution should be taken if a medication with the potential for side effects is being given. You do not want to overdose in this situation, so it is important to know exactly what was lost if you’re going to give extra medication.

Q. Should I replace the bottle if it runs out before it is supposed to due to this spillage?

If it is a prescription medicine that has been given for a specific time period, the pharmacist cannot simply replace the bottle. Your doctor would need to give a repeat script.

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Q. If it is antibiotics, is it considered a proper dose if my child spits out half of it, and will it affect future dosages if I top it up?

All parents want to make every effort to give the full dose. Giving small quantities at a time minimises spillage and you are able to administer as close as possible to the prescribed dose. It is important for a child to complete an antibiotic course at the given dose. Should the medicine run out before the recommended period, you should discuss this with the doctor. The doctor may write up a few extra doses to ensure that the course is completed correctly.

A few of our favourite tips you shared with us!

Sadiyya Haider says: “Always start with the sweeter medicine first. I do taste a bit first. My kids always hate cough syrups, so I give that last. Try giving it in a syringe. I would normally just blow onto their face so they swallow without spitting it out.”

Simone Joy James says: “Yes, I agree. I’ve got the syringe and I do it quickly. But most baby medicines taste nice so it’s only the first few times that they don’t like it. My son loves taking his now.”

Santana Edmonds says: “If you’re breastfeeding, give it to them while your boob is in their mouth. My daughter’s almost two and I still have to resort to this sometimes!”

Sarah Sad Saoud says: “Mix it into a small drink of juice.”

Courtney-Lee Chapple says: “Sometimes you can hide the taste in mango purée. This was the only way to give my son antibiotics when he was a baby.”

Julie De Klerk says: “In yoghurt or ice cream, and then eventually I found out that our son would take his medication if he took the spoon himself… so I give him a tiny glass and he calls it tea!”

Carine Vidal says: “I second the syringe. I cradle my 16-month-old son in a strong hold and let the medicine go down the inside of his mouth. I normally do this on the changing table, with his one side against the wall. This cuts down on the fighting, but doesn’t stop the tears.”

Tori Gounden says: “Simply lay your baby down in front of the TV and slowly feed with a syringe… my little one loves TV so I give her the meds when she laughs and she’s fine.”

Rubleen Pillay says: “My baby went for a barium swallow and the nurse gave me the dummy they used. It’s a dummy with a thin pipe attached and a syringe. This worked for the whole year of giving my baby meds.”

Sindie Moolman says: “My baby drinks black tea as some of the medicine works when given in tea. But the only way to give antibiotics is to use a syringe.”

Ashley Trautman says: “My baby wants whatever someone else is having, so I pretend to drink medicine in a syringe and then she also wants it.”

Thato Mma Nthati says: “I simply slide the syringe down the inside of the mouth and slowly insert the medicine bit by bit.”

Aluwani Tshisindi says: “I sing for him and when he starts laughing, I sneak in the medicine.”

Tracey Nyl says: “Bit by bit, sneaking it in with the milk bottle – it might take longer but it works for me.”

Warning: Medicine can be a health hazard!

Always check the expiry dates and whether or not the medication must be stored in the refrigerator. Remind your doctor of any previous adverse reactions your baby might have had to a particular medication. Also, ensure that courses of medication are completed as prescribed by your paediatrician.

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