3 December 2014

Top Tips for giving antibiotics to a baby

When your baby is poorly you want to do anything to make them better.
  • You'll rock them for hours every night, only cursing them silently or at least under your breath.
  • You'll wait for HOURS on hold to a GP receptionist in the morning.
  • You'll put up with her being totally inappropriate and using her secretarial college experience to diagnose your baby over the phone.
  • You'll accept her explanation that the only possible way to see a doctor before the end of time is to sit and wait for 3 hours.
  • You'll sit and wait for 3 hours with a screaming baby, patiently understanding that everyone is ill and everyone wants to be seen just as much as you do. (Except THEY don't all have a screaming baby in their arms do they?)
In short, as a parent of a poorly baby you are nothing short of a hero. 

It ain't easy having a baby who is restless, unhappy and clingy. It's even less easy when the little darling needs antibiotics! 

Giving a baby antibiotics is one of the hardest things I've had to do as a parent. And I'm a trained, experienced children's nurse. It's LITERALLY my job. And I'm crap at it. 

Here are some top tips from me as an Official Nurse, and an Official Mum.

Official Nurse Tip: Always give antibiotics as prescribed. This is usually on an empty stomach, an hour before food.

Mum tip: Whose baby eats that infrequently? Give it to them on an empty stomach if possible, and maybe leave 20 minutes before giving them another helping of rice cakes, if possible.

Official Nurse tip: Give the medication at regular intervals throughout the day. Put a reminder on your phone so you don't miss a dose. If you miss a dose, don't give double the next time, just carry on as normal.

Mum tip: Give the damn medicine whenever you can. Do a tally chart on your hand with a biro so you know how many times you've given it today. 

Official Nurse and Mum tip: Try to remain calm when giving the medication, play games, use distraction and don't get stressed about it. 

Mum tip: It's bloody stressful. If you are getting into a huge battle, give up, have a cup of tea and try again in a little while... maybe when 3rd and Bird is on... that seems to work with my son.

Official Nurse tip: Antibiotics are not a replacement for paracetamol and ibuprofen. If your baby is in pain or has a fever, keep giving paracetamol and/or ibuprofen alongside the antibiotics.

Mum tip: Give the paracetamol first. A baby who is in pain is less likely to accept yucky medicine than a happier, calmer baby. It takes around 15-20 minutes for paracetamol to be effective, so leave it a little while before trying the antibiotic.

Official Nurse tip: Put the syringe into their cheek cavity (the sides of their mouths). It's harder to spit out that way! Unless they are sucking on the syringe, go slow, little by little gives you more chance of success than a quick squirt. (That sounds rude, but it's not!)

Mum tip:  They might not spit it out, but just refuse to swallow and let it dribble down their chin, crafty little blighters! Encourage swallowing by gently closing their mouths and tipping their chin up a little bit. (Note: GENTLY encourage... don't force their head or neck or forcibly shut their mouths. Obviously.) 

Possibly weird Mum tip: It makes me feel like I'm being helpful and encouraging to do lip smacking and exaggerated swallowing and saying 'mmm yum yum'. (Yes I do even do this with babies at work... Yes their parents still trust me to look after their sick children.) 

Unofficial Nurse Tip: It's better to give the antibiotics than not give them. If you have to mix them with fromage frais, then do.

Mum tip: Don't squirt the whole dose into a whole yoghurt and mix it in. Unless you want to cry when the baby yells at you, grabs the nasty tasting yoghurt and hurls the whole pot across the room.
Instead, give a spoon of nice, safe yoghurt and a spoon of mediciney yoghurt alternately.

Official Nurse tip: They are likely to get explosive, watery poos from the antibiotics. Don't be alarmed, this is a common reaction to the medication. Look on the bright side, at least you know they're being absorbed!

Mum tip: Take several nappies and changes of clothes everywhere you go. It's gonna get messy. Every time you clear up one of these inhuman messes, give yourself a gold star and count down the days until the end of the course of antibiotics.

Official Nurse tip: Finish the course. Don't stop giving the medicine when the baby 'seems better'. It's important to finish the prescribed course. If you stop part way through a course the bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotic. 

Mum tip: When the baby seems better, (after about 2 or 3 days usually) but you are still battling to give them the medicine 4 times a day and changing honking disgusting nappies it can be VERY tempting to stop giving the antibiotic. Sorry, but there's no Mum cheat on this one. You just gotta keep going. Perhaps create yourself an antibiotic advent calendar and give yourself a chocolate for each dose until the course is over??

I've saved the best for last here people... 

This is my number one Mum AND Nurse tip

  • If you are prescribed flucloxacillin, ask them to give you something different. Oral flucloxacillin makes grown adults gag. In my humble opinion, being ill is better than drinking that bleach syrup 4 times a day. My son was prescribed it and vomitted the second it touched his lips. We got erythromicin prescribed instead and now it's only a minor battle of wills 4 times a day, rather than cruel and unusual torture. If you have a particularly awful tasting medicine, it's definitely worth calling your GP and asking if there is an alternative they could give you.

Hope my top tips have helped, and your poorly little guy or girl feels much better soon!

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