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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Baby Suppository?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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Babies can suffer from medical conditions in the same way as older children, but may require the appropriate medicine to be administered in different ways. Very young children do not have as much control over their bodies and responses to medicine as older kids and adults, so a baby suppository can get around such issues as uncontrolled vomiting and spitting up medicine. On the other hand, suppositories can be awkward to insert, and the medicine may carry potential side effects for the baby.

A baby suppository is one way of giving a baby medication, as young children tend not to be able to swallow tablets. Even if a parent tries to give the baby medicine in a liquid form, the baby may not swallow it all, which makes it hard to figure out how much of a dose the child actually received, and increases the risk of overdosing or under-dosing the baby. In addition, when a child is vomiting, he or she may not be able to keep tablets or liquid medicine down, and a suppository is more efficient.

One disadvantage of a baby suppository medicine for the parent is that the drug needs to be placed into the child's bottom, which can be both messy and awkward. Typically, the parent needs to keep the child still, in a position such as on his or her back with the legs raised upward, while inserting the baby suppository. Even after the tablet is inserted, the parent may have to keep the baby still while it dissolves enough to not come out, and this can take up to ten minutes.

Young children may be more vulnerable to side effects of drugs, as their bodies are small and their internal systems not fully developed. A rectal suppository may reduce the risk to the child as the drug is delivered only to the rectum, and may not pass into the circulation of the body. Often this depends, however, on what medication is inside the suppository. This form of medication is especially useful when babies suffer issues like constipation, where a direct application of a medication such as glycerin can be most effective.

Baby suppositories are often beneficial, but, like all medications, can carry a risk of side effects. For example, glycerin can cause irritation to the bowel, give the child diarrhea, or very rarely, cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. In addition, a parent who gives their child a baby suppository should also be aware that the medication may mask the symptoms of underlying disease, which may require investigation by a doctor.

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Discussion Comments
By anon338122 — On Jun 11, 2013

Suppositories are the answer to our difficulties in giving fever-reducing medication to our two year old child! Before, it was always a nightmare; he would often not drink medication in liquid form because he could taste it or smell it in his milk or orange juice. Then we would have to force-feed him and have two people hold him down while he was screaming and protesting. Often he would spit out a part of it, and we would have to guess how much actually went inside of him. With the suppository it's miraculously simple - we just pop it in, even while he's sleeping!

By dfoster85 — On Jun 05, 2012

@MissDaphne - I had trouble with constipation when I was supplementing my older baby with formula. I tried all those things, but what really worked for us was changing brands of formula. Some babies just have a preference!

You can also use positioning to help relieve baby constipation. Have you ever tried to have a bowel movement lying flat on your back? It can help to hold baby upright with knees bent to her chest. (My babies have always been fond of pooping in their high chair. Their table manners need work!)

By MissDaphne — On Jun 05, 2012
Don't give your baby a suppository without taking to the pediatrician first! Any meds for babies should be cleared with a doctor -- they are just so small and delicate.

They will probably want you to try non-medical methods to relieve constipation first. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, s/he probably isn't even constipated - occasionally, they can go several days without pooping just because breast milk digests so well.

If your baby is on solid foods, cutting out constipating foods like bananas and apple sauce and giving baby a little juice (apple, white grape, and prune are favorite choices) can often do the trick.

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