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Congenital Heart Defects: Caring for Your Child - Topic Overview

Giving medicine

Be sure you know how to give your child's medicines safely. Heart medicines can be very strong, so they can be dangerous if they are not given correctly.

  • Be sure you understand how much medicine to give and how to give it.
  • If you aren't comfortable giving medicine to your child, ask a health professional to help you.
  • A home health nurse can help. Talk to your doctor about having a home health nurse visit you. The nurse can set up a schedule for the medicines, show you how to store them, and help you become more comfortable giving them.

Giving a child medicine isn't always easy. If you aren't comfortable giving medicine to your child, ask your doctor or pharmacist the following questions:

  • If the baby spits out or throws up the medicine, do I give another dose?
  • If a dose of medicine is missed, should I give an extra or a double dose?
  • How soon after starting the medicine should I expect my child to start getting better?
  • If the medicine is to be given 3 or 4 times a day, do I need to wake my child at night for a dose of the medicine?
  • Should I give the medicine with food? If my child refuses to take the medicine, is it okay to add the medicine to food or drink to get the child to take it?
  • Can other medicines be given at the same time?
  • What are the most common side effects of the medicine?

Getting your child to eat well

Nutrition is very important for children who have heart defects. Getting your child to eat right can be a challenge. Children with congenital heart defects:

  • Often tire when eating, so they eat less and may not get enough calories. Feeding may take longer than you expect.
  • Tend to use more calories (have a higher metabolic rate) than other children.

To help overcome feeding difficulties or lack of weight gain:

  • Learn to recognize your baby's first signs of hunger, such as fidgeting and sucking on a fist. This will help you to begin feeding before your baby starts to cry. Your baby will have more energy to eat well if he or she isn't tired from crying.
  • Use a soft, special nipple made for babies born early (premature infants). These nipples make it is easier for your baby to get enough formula or breast milk if you bottle-feed.
  • Burp your baby often, especially when using a bottle. Babies who have trouble sucking take in large amounts of air when they eat, which makes them feel full before they get enough formula or breast milk.
  • Feed small, frequent meals. Smaller meals don't require as much energy to eat or digest.

If you have difficulty preparing balanced meals, talk with a registered dietitian. Ask your doctor whether you should increase the number of calories in each meal.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 11, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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