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Probiotics Antibiotics


By Amalah

Dearest Amalah–

First off, congratulations on 3 boys! Forget saving for college…you better start padding your grocery fund for the coming years!

Advice Smackdown ArchivesOkay, my question is medically related…sort of. My daughter, who just turned 1 last week, also just came down with her first ear infection to celebrate (complete with a late night trip to the ER when her temperature spiked to 104.6 WITH Motrin…yeah, saddest thing ever). Anyways, since she’s one now, she has been prescribed Amoxicillin twice a day for TEN DAYS. This is probably normal. I don’t know, I’m a first time mom, but that just seems crazy to me.

Anyways, I’m not a huge fan of antibiotics, but I will follow the instructions because I want my baby to be better. My question is if you had any tips for what you do with your kids when they are on antibiotics to prevent some of the nasty side effects. I know when we are on antibiotics, my husband and I eat kefir to try to replace the good bacteria in our bellies. Should we do the same with her? Any other tricks you try?

Please let me know. And soon would be great. Thanks Amalah!


Ugh, YES. THIS. Welcome to the wonderful world of antibiotics. Yes, essential and civilization-saving and all that, but also one of the LEAST FUN THINGS you as a parent will ever reluctantly force down your child’s throat.

My kids have — collectively — only been on antibiotics a very small handful of times. When I was a child, I was given them pretty excessively for every minor ear infection ever. I think I was on antibiotics for MONTHS at a time for a good two years, because that’s just what you did back then when kids were even mildly ill. I eventually had tubes put in my ears, which solved the chronic infection problem, but not before I was left with a host of permanent side effects (tooth discoloration, a good DOZEN prescription drug allergies that I have never outgrown). On the plus side, I’m pretty good at figuring out how to treat a ton of mild illnesses without the help of antibiotics, because they’ve simply been off the table for me since childhood.

My pediatrician usually sends us home from a sick visit with a prescription but with the caveat to “wait and see” and give it another night or two to see if we can’t weather the illness without the meds. And we usually can, but occasionally, sure. What we thought a mild ear infection turned out to be a pretty bad double infection, or Ezra managed to spectacularly injure himself and antibiotics were prescribed as a preventive measure. Fun!

The good news is that — for us, anyway — the first round of antibiotics is always the worst, in terms of side effects. So just because you’re beyond horrified at what the Amoxicillin is doing to your poor baby girl right now, rest assured that it likely won’t be THAT BAD again should she ever need them again in the future. I don’t know if it’s an age or exposure thing, but I do know that Noah on antibiotics at age four is NOTHING like Noah on antibiotics at age one.

In the meantime, how to offset the side effects? Obviously, yes, probiotics are a HUGE HELP when you’re dealing with an upset stomach or hideous diaper rash from antibiotics. I still remember those diapers. Oh my God. Somebody hold me.

Kefir is a great start, or any kind of yogurt really, but we always bust out the pure, powdered probiotics and dilute them in whatever liquid the kid will accept. Kids sometimes get a little extra picky and lethargic about food and drink when they’re not feeling well, so I find it’s best not to count on them accepting yogurt smoothies or probiotic-boosted oatmeals right when they really could use them. Going with a powder gives you a bit more flexibility when faced with a cranky toddler who will only drink That One Kind of Apple Juice. You can even mix the powder into foods, like pudding, applesauce, ICE CREAM, whatever it takes. Whole Foods sells several kids’ formulas — you keep ’em in the fridge, and they’re handy for whenever you suspect some tummy problems emerging, or a yeast-based diaper rash, or just as a daily boost for their morning milk.

If you can’t find the kids’ powders and don’t have time to go hunting for them, MOST pharmacies and drug stores now stock some kind of probiotic supplement. Find one in capsule form and just open the capsule and dump the powdered contents into her drink or cereal or whatever. Don’t stress about the dosage — one adult-sized capsule is still a very reasonable amount that isn’t going to hurt her or anything. And if she’ll drink yogurt-based smoothies or eat it straight from the container, by all means go for that too. Her body will find the balance, eventually.

One last thing, just because I know this ALWAYS comes up when we’re talking kids and diarrhea: Note that the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce & Toast) is NOT RECOMMENDED for small children, at least not for more than 24 hours or so. I know, I know! We all grew up with it and my mom still swears by it and I KNOW, OKAY. But: the American Academy of Pediatrics says that while those “binding” type of foods can certainly be ADDED to a child’s diet, they should absolutely NOT replace the child’s normal line-up of foods. BRAT is too nutritionally incomplete (even most adults are now advised to resume eating as normal a diet as possible when faced with a stomach bug), and your child needs to keep her energy level up and her immune system in gear, and a diet of white rice and bananas alone aren’t going to help any. So feed her “the usual” meals without fear, try some popsicles, and put butter and jelly on the toast, if that’s what she’ll eat. Binding foods are great, definitely, but keeping a child on a restricted diet for say, a full 10-day course of antibiotics, is not such a great idea.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

Published January 31, 2011. Last updated July 20, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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