Getting Babies and Kids to Take Medicine

Parents share experiences of their babies and kids (aged two and four) refusing to take medicine, and PSP members offer tips to help! 

thermometer-833085 640


Important Message from Park Slope Parents (PSP): Just a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP groups or on the website.


For babies...

On giving it: 

Mix it with ice cream:

“We've mixed it with food (ice cream seemed to dilute the taste the best), but that is dicey especially if you mix too much or they aren't hungry anymore. I would just mix small amounts of food he likes with a little bit of the medicine."

"We did have to switch the type of antibiotic in order to get pills, necessitating a complete start-over. Now, I cut w/ a pill cutter, crush, mix w/ ice cream, & it's a breeze."

Mix it with chocolate syrup:

"I have one of those kiddos too. The only thing that works for us is chocolate syrup. We use a spoon and completely cover the medicine. The chocolate hides the taste."

"Hi-I totally feel you! My older son was a nightmare with medicine! The one thing that worked was to mix the medicine in a small cup or shot glass with chocolate syrup and call it chocolate soup. A tablespoon of chocolate syrup totally masked the medicine and so it didn’t take a huge volume of liquid to get the job done. We said it was a reward since he was sick and down the hatch it went!"

"Straight undiluted Hershey’s syrup like for chocolate milk has worked well for us. Also plain white sugar until it turns into a paste. It takes an alarming amount of sugar, but it went really well."

Mix it with milk:

“This doesn't sound ideal, but I'm thinking maybe you could add the dose of tylenol to an ounce or two of expressed breastmilk or formula...not a full bottle of milk in case your baby doesn't finish and then doesn't get the full dose.”

Mix it with juice:

"I think sometimes the “flavors” make it worse (and more voluminous). I actually finally got a doc who gave us capsule pills, and I opened them up, and added the — very tiny amount — of powder to juice. The only issue with this is that you have to make sure your kid drinks ALL the juice (if they don’t finish you don’t know how much of the medication they got) which depends on how your kid feels about juice."

"When my son needed antibiotics the only thing that worked was mixing it with alittle naked juice smoothie (I got whatever looked thickest) and let him drink it from the little medicine cup"

"We were able to hide our 3yo’s meds in orange juice — your child may need a stronger flavored drink (grape juice?) so there’s not a ton to get down.  A straw helped and we gave her some time, just confirming she got it all eventually. She doesn’t typically get juice and was happy to have the treat."

Alternate it with food:

“Lately the most successful attempts have been giving him squirts in between bites of the cracker / cookie he likes (Obleas from Colombia).”

Serve it in smaller amounts, different positions, or with a different dispenser:

“Little bits at a time helps.”

"I had this problem when my son was about 1.5. Turns out he flips out when the medicine is in a syringe but completely happy to gobble it down in a spoon or a small cup"

Try different flavors:

“Also [our baby] really prefers the grape to the cherry and it stains less. At this point she likes to lick and chew on the dropper after she has her Tylenol. It did take a while for her to decide she liked it though.”

Blow on your baby’s face:

“When I was at the ped yesterday for my daughter's 6 month shots, she was fighting taking the rotavirus oral immunization. The nurse told me to blow on her face to get her to swallow it. Weird, but it worked! I don't know if either suggestion will keep your little one keep the tylenol down, but it can't hurt to try! Good luck, hope you can figure out a method that works.”

Consider different options:


“When [my son] had a high fever a few months back, we struggled with liquid medicine.  [My son] would actually gag at the taste of it, no matter what flavor we tried.  He just didn't want it.  We went to suppositories. It was surprisingly easy and made me much more comfortable to know that Jason was getting the medicine that he really needed.”

“We also have a toddler that gags at liquid medicines.  We have had much better luck with the acetaminophen suppositories.  You can buy them at the Neergard on 7th Ave or the one on 9th Street.  They go by the brand name "Feverall" and come in three dosage strengths - infants (80 mg), childrens (120 mg) and jr. strength (325).  Based on our 2 year old's weight (guessing somewhere around 28-30 lbs), our doctor told us to give her one and a half of the children's (120 mg) dosage.  I wish they made Advil/Motrin suppositories but so far I haven't found any.”


Chewables can be crushed into a paste

Squirt/syringes (with needle removed):

Lay your baby on their back and squirt into the back corner of their mouth.

"Aiming the syringe at the back and side of the mouth to try to skip the tongue and holding her cheeks with her head tilted slightly back may help. But it’s not fun!"

On doses:

Make sure you know the correct dose:

“FYI, we thought a dose was one suppository. After a visit to the ER, we learned that based on his weight, he needed 1.5 suppositories.  Also, they only have suppositories for Tylenol (acetaminophen) not for Advil or Motrin.”

Remember, no medicine is the same:

“Just a reminder that there are different concentrations of tylenol. It looks like the two doses mentioned (8ml and 1.25ml) are for different concentrations of the product, according to my dosing chart that I got at the doc's office. The former is from the 80mg/.8ml infant drops, and the latter is the 160mg/5ml new infant acetominophen oral suspension stuff. It looks like the 1.25 ml dose that Maya mentioned is half as strong as the .8ml that Tania mentioned. (In case I got any of that wrong, don't take my word for it without double checking.) Anyway, I hope that a) I'm not stating the obvious and b) that made some sense despite being a jumble of numbers.”

“I'll second this warning about dosing for Tylenol. It's really important to get the right dose for Tylenol (more so than for ibuprofen) and so we have just switched to Children's Motrin."

Make notes for yourself about the dose:

“I just put a post-it note on the box with how much H&E could have and how often, and we include medications on their daily tracking charts so we all know who had what when (including their vitamins! - my husband thinks I'm crazy and keeps asking how much longer we have to do this).”

Be mindful with your child minders:

“If your child is regularly watched by a caregiver who isn't as savvy with numbers and charts and reading mg/ml and all that, it helps to have only one type of tylenol or motrin in your main medicine area, and then rather than leaving the dosing chart that shows 10 medicines on a grid against about 7 weight categories - which often conflict with co-listed age categories -- write out on a piece of paper (that you will replace as the baby grows) exactly how much of a medicine to give, so it's easy to figure out. I now have one that says, "If fever is 100.4 or higher, give ?ml of Tylenol every 4 hours." (I filled in the question mark with a real number.)”

Take advantage of resources:

“Tribeca has all the dosing charts online.”


The case of a reluctant two-year-old...

Our almost 2 year old was just diagnosed with her first ear infection, but HATES absolutely HATES taking her medicine.  We pinned her down this evening, but still were only successful at getting in probably half of the dose - at best.  She spits it out and starts screaming / crying when she sees the syringe coming.  Does anyone have any tips or tricks?

Ideas include:

1. "We had one parent hold her parallel to the ground, while the other gave the medicine. I was the one giving the meds - I aimed for the cheek and gave it all in one big squirt. We kept her in that position until we heard her gulp (usually in a few seconds). Then we got her up and comforted her. We probably got 80-90% of it in."

2. "My son absolutely hated when I would approach with the syringe so I started putting it in a little cup and he happily drank it. Try making it her 'choice' to have some juice and perhaps it will work."

3. "My husband made a game of it and pretended we didn't want to share with her, it was so good...within a few tries, she now takes the syringe from us and wants to do it her self, wanting more after she takes the dosage."

4. "We let him play with the syringe and he liked to drink water from it, so he was not so worried about it when we gave [him] something else in it."

5. "Sit them down, explain to them what you're doing, acknowledge it might feel physically awkward or uncomfortable, but ask them to bear with you because it will be over soon, etc.  I thought there was no way it was going to work––he was 22 months or so, pretty willful, obviously not a rational person or anything.  But I figured what the hell, and I swear it made a big difference.  He still instinctively closed his eyes when the drops were coming near, but after the first time I did this, he sat still on the couch, no four-point restraints necessary.  I wouldn't say he loved it but it improved the experience a lot.  Again, I know it sounds inconceivable that your toddler would actually just like, listen to you––or at least, it did to me!––but it can't hurt to try, I guess."


Medicating a four-year-old...

My son recently got strep and needed antibiotics for the first time. Wow! Our little boy put up the fight of his life when it came time to take them. We tried everything: got it flavored at KidsRx, mixed it with ice cream, chocolate pudding, tried letting him do it himself, tried doing it slowly, doing it fast, with a straw, out of a special bowl, offering candy afterward, holding his nose so he couldn't taste it as much. We tried physically forcing him to take it, which mostly ended up with medicine dribbling down his chins, and once in him throwing up all we had managed to get down in the 45 minutes prior. I tried a touch of the medicine and it didn't even taste that bad...I know it is a control issue, but I do not know what to do about it. We ended up having to get him 2 injections in his legs and it was AWFUL. (And then he refused to take ibuprofen to dull the pain!) I very much do not want to have to go that route the next time. Anyone have any tips?

Ideas include:

1. Mix it with Hershey's chocolate syrup (seems to mask the taste better than ice cream or pudding).

2. Reward/sticker charts (which have never worked with our son, but others have had success with them.)

3. Get the antibiotics in pill form, then chop the pills into very small pieces and put it in delicious and crunchy food.

4. One parent had their kid's teacher give them the medicine--the power struggle with parents didn't come into play as much. Someone else suggested we just hope he doesn't need more meds before reaching a more reasonable developmental stage.

5. Another parent shared "one thing that finally worked was grape juice. Undiluted, syrup sweet grape juice (we used Kedem, I think). The taste was sweet & strong enough to cover her medicine.  Other mixes suggested by friends/pharmacists were ice cream, milk shakes, chocolate syrup and (oddly) cherry syrup - like the kind found in cherry pie filling (not maraschino cherries). That one came direct from a seasoned pharmacist."


Disclaimer: The goal of Park Slope Parents is to provide our readers and members with opinions, reviews, and advice from neighborhood parents.  The recommendations, opinions, and comments hosted on are generated by neighborhood parents and the responsibility of their respective authors.

Park Slope Parents accepts no responsibility for the recommendations, opinions, and comments posted on this site by its members. Parties submitting such information to Park Slope Parents bear sole responsibility and liability for the content of such information.

If you see objectionable content, please contact us and we will investigate the issue. Content violating our terms of service may be removed, and the author's account may be suspended depending on the outcome of our investigation.