23 answers

Can't Get 10 Month Old to Swallow Antibiotics - Help!

My 10 month old daughter has had an ear infection for 6 weeks. We try to go to antibiotics as a last resort, and feel that is the only option left. We don't want to cause permanent damage to her ear. My problem is that she will not swallow anywhere near the full dose she is supposed to take. She clamps her mouth shut and spits out anything I manage to get in. I've tried blowing in her face (apparently that is supposed to make them swallow), forcing her mouth open, squirting it in her cheek, mixing it with her food. Nothing is working. Any ideas?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Ask for pills instead... then crush and put in applesauce, pudding... something that is a special treat (icecream?). Even the added flavoring doesn't always cover up the taste of a liquid antibiotic. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Try rubbing/tickling her throat downward in the area of the adam's apple (I realize she doesn't have one.) at the same time you put the medicine in her mouth. This rubbing causes most babies to swallow automatically. I found a syringe from the pharmacy to be the best delivery method for this. You can put in partical quantities that she can manage to swallow.

Another option . . . I have seen a pacifer-looking item for delivering the medication. She might be willing to suck it out of that.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Hi B.,

While I worked at Walgreen's, they had a video station set up nearby where I worked in which a physician and a walgreen's pharmacist discussed various medications and safe dosages. Beings that I worked in the front, and the video was less than 10 feet away from me, I got to listen to the whole video in its' entirety, over and over and over again.

This physician noted that infant/children medications were more concentrated just for the fact that it's sometimes harder to get children to take the medication. She pointed out that even if you don't think your child is getting enough medication, that they probably are, just because of the high concentration of the dose.

Some suggestions you can try for getting your baby to take more of her medication: I noticed you said you have squirted it at her cheek. That is a good way to get the medicine in there, but try not squirting it all at once(if you haven't already tried this), but instead, small, quick squirts instead of one longer fast one.

Another one you can try is getting the medication flavored, if the doctor or pharmacist doesn't recommend against it. Some medicines can lose efficacy if they are flavored, so ask the pharmacist or doctor if it's okay to flavor it.

I don't know which foods you've tried, but yogurt, pudding or applesauce might make it more appealing to her. Also, a little bit of juice, almost like a tiny shot with the medicine might help. You should also ask the doctor or pharmacist if any of the foods you're trying to get her to take it with will reduce how effective the medicine is.

If all else fails, ask the doctor for suggestions on what else you can do to get her to take it.

My youngest(9 yo) was hell on wheels when it came to taking medication, and like you, I tried every trick in the book. The small quirts in cheek seemed to be the best until she grew out of the liquid meds option, and then I had to deal with her making herself throw up whenever medicine went in her mouth. She finally outgrew the voluntary gag reflex last year. Sometimes, medicating children a real problem.

Best of luck to you and your little one. Honestly, I know how hard it can be when they're sick and suffering, and then to add a medicine battle on top of it. Ya wanna cry for more reasons than one.

K. W

P.S. One more thing I want to suggest: try to be as calm and relaxed as possible when you approach her with the medicine, and while giving it to her, even if it's a struggle. She'll be able to sense how uptight/nervous/anxious you are, and it will add to her stress. If you just can't get her to take it, then stop trying for a little bit, and try again. Maybe get her engaged in some kind of happy play for awhile before it's time to take her medicine--might help.

One more P.S. Don't blow in her face trying to get her to take it. She might inhale quickly and it might go down the wrong "pipe" thus causing her to choke on the medicine.

3 moms found this helpful

I suggest "letting" her make the decision of when to take it. Tell her she can take the medicine now or when the timer rings. It's so easy for giving medicine to become a power struggle.

Have you tried, with her out of the room, putting it in a flavored drink such as Pedia electrolytes or a juice? I know it tastes awful but I think diluting it might help. She can chug it down from a bottle.

When my granddaughter was in the ER because of an asthma attack the nurse was firm and fast. She lay her down, opened her mouth by pushing on the sides and pushed it in as fast as the syringe would go. Since she was lying down she had to swallow it. And the nurse was so quick she was taken off guard. Of course she cried afterwards and I held and soothed her. My daughter and I used that technique several times with my grandchildren. Sometimes it's not pleasant but it is necessary to get the anti-biotics down. Your daughter won't be as surprised the next time but if one person firmly holds her while the other shoots in the medicine it should work.

My first thought was how cruel this is. My second was how cruel to let her continue to be ill because I didn't want to hurt her feelings; take away her sense of control. Huh!? 10 month old babies have very little control so why should we give them control over something as important as taking medicine. If a baby were reaching for a sharp knife on the table we'd grab it away and she would cry. So do we let her have the knife?

Why do you wait to give anti-biotics as a last resort? The bacteria has multipled over the 6 weeks increasing the amount of infection which makes it more difficult to get rid of it. While the bacteria is multiplying it is attacking your daughter's ear. The anti-biotics do not damage her ear. Does your pediatrician agree that you should wait that long?

2 moms found this helpful

Ask for pills instead... then crush and put in applesauce, pudding... something that is a special treat (icecream?). Even the added flavoring doesn't always cover up the taste of a liquid antibiotic. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

We would make our son a bottle of warm milk, add chocolate syrup and the medicine, shake. Down the hatch. The chocolate covered up the flavor of the medicine, and when he finished the bottle I knew he'd had his dose and would set the next one from then.

While sure, I THEORETICALLY don't approve of giving infants chocolates and candy on a regular basis, in practice: the two weeks worth of antibiotics was WAY more important then an added 100 empty calories a day in his diet.


(sorry if this is anoying, or if you already know it! There are just too many microbiologists and docs in my family... It just leaps out of my mouth on the off chance someone, somewhere might not know;)

The single MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT ANTIBIOTICS IS TO FINISH THE COURSE. You daughters immune system gets the antibodies no matter what, but if you don't finish the course you're creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria...which is the main reason antibiotics aren't prescribed as often as they could/should be. People start feeling better and stop taking them, or "save them for next time".

1 mom found this helpful

You might try to call your pharmacy and if they could change the flavor of the antibiotic. I know it sounds crazy, but she might just absolutely hate it. Many pharmacies will do this; it may mean a phone call to the doctor's office to re-prescribe, but I have a feeling this isn't an uncommon request for pediatricians. I know that antibiotics can be flavored bubble-gum or banana, and there may be some others out there. It's worth a try.

If you can get the meds in tablets, using a mortar and pestle to finely grind it up and adding it to yogurt or the like is a great idea.

Just for what it's worth, I wouldn't link taking medicine to a separate treat, be it food or video or a special toy. She obviously has a reason she doesn't like taking the medicine, and punishing her by not letting her have the "something else" (which is also very confusing to an extremely young child) will only add to both your and her frustration. 10 month olds are not old enough to understand this kind of "consequence". I would rather take my son in for injections if need be than set our relationship up for power struggles. They only lead to anger, distrust and resentment. No one likes to be coerced. That's just my two bits.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi B.-

My 8 month old takes medicine twice a day for reflux, and it started out really really difficult with the same thing you are experiencing with spitting it out, clamping mouth, etc. What finally helped with her is I started letter her play with the syringe before and after giving meds to get her to not hate the syringe. Sometimes it also helps to squirt it at the roof of her mouth because then it goes right to the back of her throat. I've also done the football hold someone mentioned, but now I just lay her on the ground on her back. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

First - talk to your pharmacist about the issue--- there are SO manydifferent flavors- ( and I'm sure you've talked to your doctor- or the nurse --- .

Second- have someone else give her the medicine- she has her reaction to you down pat---

Third - is there a toy or a tv show or - something that she really likes ??? --- wait until the '''' oh, goody''' (whatever it might be) is about to start- or is on the floor- and ssay very calmly - ''' first swallow- then 'wiggles'' -- So you say - VERY calmly and matter of factly- ''as soon as you swallow your medicine you will be ready to
- go out and take a walk
watch the Wiggles
play with ----'''

Oh, not swallow?? too bad- you're not ready -.

( now, the down side is if she continues to refuse - she really mustn't be given the '''treat''' you were tempting her with - and that will really set up a tantrum-- but you need to win this time---'''' You ready for Wiggles?? - good, swallow medicine - then Wiggles'''. And if she refuses- the tv is off- or the door is closed- or - )


1 mom found this helpful

Not sure what antibiotic she's on, but if your not using the higher strength, talk to your pediatrician and ask them. The higher strength requires a smaller dose hence better odds of her getting enough even if she spits some out. a little is better than none. They also have injectables if she won't swallow a shot maybe the next best thing, they also have ear drops that have antibiotics in them. Either case your doctor would know best and 6 weeks is a long time.

1 mom found this helpful

Does she take a bottle at all? I used to have to put the meds in the bottle for better luck.

1 mom found this helpful

We had a similar problem and our doctor recommended that we mix the liquid antibiotic with coffee syrup. I had vanilla on hand so I just used that. I used equal parts and It sweetned up the taste so that our son thought it was like candy. He even wanted to continue taking the medicine after the 10 days was up.

Also, we've had a liquid antibootic (drops) that you put directly into the ear to treat the infection. It was actually labeled as an eye medication, but it worked well.

Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful

Try rubbing/tickling her throat downward in the area of the adam's apple (I realize she doesn't have one.) at the same time you put the medicine in her mouth. This rubbing causes most babies to swallow automatically. I found a syringe from the pharmacy to be the best delivery method for this. You can put in partical quantities that she can manage to swallow.

Another option . . . I have seen a pacifer-looking item for delivering the medication. She might be willing to suck it out of that.

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds like no fun to do but it works. Open her mouth at her jaw and then plug her nose that way she has to keep her mouth open to breath. Put the meds in and make sure she swallows before you unplug her nose. She will swallow quickly so that she can breath! It works this is what my doctor told me to do with my youngest who was just like your little one!

1 mom found this helpful


Lovingly put your child's head tilted slightly back on your legs. Open your child's mouth with your fingers with one hand on each corner and quickly take a syringe (without needle) filled with the liquid antibiotics in the other hand and push the contents with one quick squirt deep into the mouth. hold child's cheeks closed and insure the head remains tilted back until you are sure the contents have been swallowed.


1 mom found this helpful

We went through the same thing with our second baby when she was 9 months. Some babies resist having a foreign object shoved into their mouths, especially if they don't like the taste of the medicine. We ended up mixing her medicine with about a tablespoon of jelly and spoon-feeding it to her (which she liked). Occasionally my other kids have resisted taking medicine, and we generally mix it with a couple of tablespoons of juice in a sippy cup (w/o the spill-proof plug). Since I don't give them juice every day, it is a treat to drink something sweet and they typically will drink it. Sometimes they'll take medicine better when they're drowsy, as one of the other moms suggested. They're so out of it, that they don't resist as much.

Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful

My son is terrible at taking medicines to the point where he will vomit first, some can be deluited and go into the bottle with milk or what ever, but most can't be deluited and I told his dr and was so pleased to find out they do make chewables in antibiotics, and my son loves taking his vitamins so we just tell him it's a vitamin and he takes it no problem.. maybe chewables would work, tell her it's candy or something.. lol good luck I know the frushtration.

I had the same problem with all 5 of my older children not wanting to swallow their medication. My mother works in the Emergency Room of a hospital and she showed me a technique that worked wonders for me to get my children to swallow their medication.....Hold the baby like a football with her head in your armpit / near your elbow. Your arm on the outside will hold one of the child's arms while the other arm is held next to your body. Then with the head still and tilted back slightly begin administering the medicine using a plastic syringe. It helps that as you do this a little at a time you gently pinch the baby's nose which causes a swallowing reflex in the baby. I asked my Pediatrician about this method and he said that is the best way to do it and can not cause any problems.....and mind you......he was my Pediatrician when I was a baby.....so I trusted him and it has worked for me every time! Hope this helps!

What I had to do with my oldest son was to wait until he fell asleep. After he was sleeping soundly, I would wake him up and while he was still groggy and disoriented I would give him the meds. Poor little guy wasn't really awake enough to clamp his mouth shut or spit out the medication. Then I would immediately hand him a sippy cup of apple juice - which he always thought was a special treat.

I also kept the meds in the fridge to help with the bad taste.

We had the same problems when our 19 month old was younger. He had 6 ear infections in his first year of life and has had to go thru many doses of antibiotics and ibuprofen (for pain). He did NOT like to take the medicine, not any of it. I know this may sound odd, but the best way we found was to talk to him, explain why he had to take the medicine. We would sit on the couch (and try to stay very calm), he would get to put his hand on my hand (over the syringe) and then we would squirt a little bit at a time, about 3-4 squirts to get all finished (and he would suck at the same time). It gave him a sense of control (although he really didn't have any). We still do that to this day, when he has to take medicine.
Also, you could check with your pediatrician to see if you could get the drops that go directly into the ears (not orally). Good luck.

I know this may sound horrible but it works like a charm and trust me they will live no matter how much they fuss...take the dropper with the antibiotic in it and right before you put it in their mouth you pinch their nose...they have no choice but to open their mouth then you put the dropper in the close to the side of their mouth and far back as you can with out going down her throat. just kind of towards the back .......sqiurt the dropper then let go of her nose....this whole process takes just a few seconds......if it is just you ..hold her in your arms like you would a baby and make sure one arm of hers is behind your back....block the other with your hand as you pinch her nose and put the med in her mouth....it's more horrifying to us than it is to them trust me .....

You can mix her meds with her formula, breast milk, juice, or anything she eats. I am very surprised that the dr did not tell you this.

I know this isn't a response to the question you really asked; but I wanted to let you know there might be a really effective alternative to antibiotics and your daughter doesn't have to swallow it. Starting in my teens I would frequently get ear infections which continued into adulthood. They started to be treated with antibiotics, but after a couple years the antibiotics started to be ineffective. Someone refered my mom to a natural remedy called colloidal silver(you can get it at the natural food stores). I would just put a couple drops in each of my ears everyday until it went away. Usually 2 days. The reason this works is that ear infections are bacterial and bacteria can't survive in a silver charged environment. It's much more effective because it's targeting the local infection, not killing the good bacteria all over the body like oral antibiotics.

Whether you try it is up to you, I just wanted you to know. Each of my friends who have kids and have tried it raves about the quick effectiveness and ease of application. You can also use it for a lot of other things. Good luck. =)

It's best if you have your husband to help you with this method, but it WORKS.

Strap her in her seat or high chair, load up the antibiotics. Now work quickly: one of you tip her head back slightly, plug her nose with one hand. The other squeeze her cheeks together to force her mouth open, insert syringe and squirt towards the back of the mouth against a cheek. She will swallow quickly because she has no choice and it will be over before you know it, with very little fight. I've tried everything else, nothing really works well, but this works like a dream! Good luck!

I would like to second the advise sent from Krissi F that was sent yesterday. I think she was right on with her advise. I was surprised when my daughter started coming down with some readness around the ear and I just happened to have a crainal
sacral appt that day for her and it cleared right up. In the past 7 years, she consistantly will get ear infections when she forgets and has dairy (ice cream) a few days in a row and/or too much suger. I do think there was fluid in her ears for a while, and althougt she has very good physical
hearing, she seems to have difficulty with auditory processing. There can be a link between the two. I just read the research on it. Wishing you the best.

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