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Doctors apparently frown on parents sedating their babies. They also won’t advise you on how to do it. You’re kind of on your own.

June 1, 2010

My friend Danna recently asked me for advice about traveling with a tot in tow. This was extremely baffling to me, because although I don’t eat babies, I don’t really have any experience to draw on or knowledge about how to provide for one, either.

Also, babies scare me. Like, a lot.

A while back, when Danna’s son Oren was about 6 months old, I was hanging out at her house on a Saturday night – I know – and she unexpectedly handed him off to me while she made a phone call. Despite my dual look of horror and dismay, she plopped the plucky tyke in my lap and left the room. He was OK for the first few minutes, but soon my novelty wore off, and in no time he was squirming and drooling and grunting. And I was all, “I don’t know what you want. Use your words, baby.” Then I remembered he couldn’t speak, and he just kept flailing his extremities and trying to grab my hair and gouge my eyes out. So I was like, “Hey, what did I ever do to you?” And he just played dumb and pretended not to understand what I was saying, which is so typical of a baby. As a last-ditch effort, I decided to try playing with him as if he were a kitten. Unhooking my shiny Fossil watch, I waved it in front of his face and voila – he channeled his inner feline and batted at it like the cat I knew he could be. I was feeling rather cocky about my cross-species parenting skills, until Danna – completely mortified – poked her head into the room to check on us, only to find me cooing “Who’s a pretty kitty?” while Oren clutched the metallic watch in his tiny fist and stuffed it in his mouth. And that’s the last time I was allowed to hold him. My plan worked perfectly.

Despite this episode in which I demonstrated my complete inability to care for or relate to a human under the age of 25, the other day Danna started to tell me about how she was departing shortly for a trip to Israel, and the flights would be a total of 12 hours. She didn’t really have to say any more than that, because I knew exactly what she was hinting at. So I said matter-of-factly, “You totally have to drug him.” And she flashed me such a look of relief, as if to say, “Thank you, friend, for supporting me in my bid to sedate my child for his comfort, as well as my own, and the greater good of all passengers on board our transatlantic flight.” You’re welcome.

We agreed it was the humane thing to do – for all involved. If I were stuck on a plane for that long, I’d self-medicate. But that’s the thing about babies – they need our help. Well, probably not my help. But other people’s. Preferably people who like babies.

Benadryl was the logical choice. But what dose do you give a 10-month-old? “And what are the odds that he’d be allergic to something harmless like Benadryl? It’s what you take to *stop* an allergy attack,” I said. “Exactly. It’d be like someone being allergic to fruit,” Danna replied. Except, as it turns out, Danna is allergic to all sorts of fruits and vegetables. She started rattling off a laundry list of natural killers. Peaches, strawberries, carrots, celery. “And apples, but only certain kinds,” she assured me. As if that made her less of a freak show.

Sedate your baby with Benadryl – at your own risk.

Then we became paranoid that Oren might be allergic to the one drug on Earth that is universally prescribed to undo allergic reactions. Or that she might go to jail for sedating her baby. Or that the baby would have an allergic reaction to the usually harmless allergy medication and she’d go to jail. She resolved to call the pediatrician, but she didn’t want to come right out and ask about baby sedation. So we agreed she should phrase the two-pronged inquiry as follows : “Is there a remote possibility my baby is deathly allergic to Benadryl? And if not, what is the proper dose to give him?” Sneaky, right? No mention of drugging babies. Just a simple, 1. I want to give my baby Benadryl, and 2. How much? No reason necessary.

Except apparently, a reason is necessary.

The next day, I received this tragic text from Danna:

I just got off the phone with the nurse and she found out my ulterior motive and DID NOT approve of me sedating Oren! I tried to tell her about you and how normal you are and that you thought it would be perfectly fine to sedate an infant, but she wouldn’t give me the correct dosage. 😦 My hopes of drugging my baby have been dashed!

So, basically, the nurse left Danna* no choice but to sedate herself during the flight, and let little Oren fend for himself at a cruising altitude for half a day. Because, obviously, one of them had to be sedated, and the nurse was uncooperative and Danna didn’t want to risk killing her infant on an airplane with an antihistamine when all she really wanted to do was drug him. Thanks for nothing, nurse.

* Danna’s a really good mom. She’d never** sedate a baby. Nor would she sedate herself while caring for a baby.

** Unless the situation were dire. Like, say, a very long plane ride. Or if he hadn’t slept in a few days. Or if she couldn’t get a babysitter, and Tori Amos was on tour. ***

*** And not even then. Probably.****

**** I haven’t spoken to Danna since before she left the country. I actually don’t know whether any adult or baby sedation occurred. After she reads this post, I may never know. But I’ll always wonder.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2010 10:06 AM

    As the mother to a 2 year old version of Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) I am all for sedating both baby and parent. Also, I’m scared to fly so really, mostly I just sedate myself which is best for everyone, especially my toddler since I don’t want him to grow up being scared to fly I’d rather him think back to the lovely memories he has of running amok in flying tin cans while his mommy was passed out and drooling on a stranger.

    Damn doctors, they’re never helpful when you need them to be. You know if they had to travel far with a baby they would TOTALLY be drugging it. It’s a male conspiracy! Assuming all docs who refuse to give out info on drugging babies are male…which they are…because a woman would know and understand the importance of such an act. It’s humane really.

  2. June 1, 2010 10:15 AM

    I used benadryl on my son. NOT DAILY or anything. Usually. But when he was sick and it’s supposed to be OKAY to give a child actual MEDICINE and things that should have won me lots of parenting awards. Or at least allowed me to get more than three hours of sleep which is typically essential for functional cortical processes.Which are typically required for reasonable parenting.

    Except my son, who henceforth shall be called “Sheldon the Bizarre,” (“Sheldon” is a nice name, don’t you think? We should have named him Sheldon), has that rare Dark Mirror reaction to Benadryl whereby he gets wired up higher than Bob Goldthwaite on Red Bull and no sleeping occurs for at least 19 days.

    But I’ll still think good thoughts for Danna on the plane for the return flight. Or at least that if her baby is uncomfortable and screams, that other babies are screaming louder so she doesn’t have too much guilt.

  3. June 1, 2010 10:28 AM

    When we moved cross country, we had to give our cat these little kitty Valiums. She spent most of the six hour flight under my sister’s seat, glassy eyed. When we landed in California and let the cat out in the new apartment, she stumbled around and into the walls for days before she recovered.

    It was hilarious, but she’s never really been the same.

    (When my parents moved to England and back, on the return trip the cats were shipped freight-style. At customs, they asked us the value of the cats, and if they were new or used. Mom & I felt kind of bad when we had to answer that the cats were worthless and used.)

    I know this post was about drugging babies, but my brain went elsewhere, mmmk? 😀

    • June 2, 2010 4:26 AM

      If I pretend to have a used cat will your vet write me a script for valium too?

  4. Sebastian Melmoth permalink
    June 1, 2010 10:35 AM

    The proper dose is 2.5 ml through a medicine dropper, as seen here:

    You can use either Benadryl or Manischewitz. I recc. the Benadryl. Tastes better.

  5. June 1, 2010 11:10 AM

    I totally think that’s why my mom always encouraged me to stick my finger in her beer to taste the foam when I was a toddler.

  6. June 1, 2010 11:49 AM

    I can tell you as one that has a son that is allergic to benadryl, it gives him the opposite reaction. Instead of making him mellow it made him a raving hyper lunatic. That would be bad on a plane.
    That being said…….. doctors just don’t understand. They don’t have to. They can get their hands on the good stuff to “calm” their kids.

  7. June 1, 2010 11:57 AM

    You are totally awesome. I love that you played with the baby like a cat. And of course it worked. Aren’t all babies just like cats?

    And nurses and doctors are all smuggy smug these days. C’mon, who are they to judge? And for the record, I was a baby full of crazy food allergies and had lots of the benadryl apparently and lived. Though that may explain a lot about me today.

  8. June 1, 2010 12:12 PM

    I still think the safest route is to freeze them in carbonite.

  9. June 1, 2010 1:01 PM

    Love Interest E was allergic to fruit, too. He probably still is, but I don’t have to care anymore. Is my bitter showing?

    Oh, and I think you’re supposed to use Dramamine.

  10. June 1, 2010 1:31 PM

    *scribble scribble* lie and say that the kids got hives, not that you want to sedate him for any reason *scribble scribble*

  11. June 1, 2010 3:21 PM

    I used to fake illness as a child so that I was allowed this amazing tasting medicine that seemed to always have ‘just in case’. And check me out – I turned out just fine…


    I did.

  12. June 1, 2010 4:55 PM

    Well, I hate to be *that* person, but I am deathly allergic to Benadryl. We learned this when — you guessed it — they gave me Benadryl for an allergic reaction I was having to something else.

    However, if the kid were deathly allergic to Benadryl, even a teeny tiny dose would have affected him strangely, so Danna could have done a test dose.

    And I am ALL FOR drugging children. It really is the humane thing to do.

  13. June 1, 2010 5:06 PM

    Or that she might go to jail for sedating her baby.

    That’s backwards. They should be jailed for not sedating babies on planes. To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson – “I’m tired of these m***erf***ing babies on this m***erf***ing plane!”

  14. June 1, 2010 7:22 PM

    If your friend is a Tori fan, she doesn’t *need* to sedate the baby. All she has to do is bust out the Tori video collection and play it for little Oren. Based on my experience with my young cousins, it tends to confuse the hell out of them (or maybe it mesmerizes them, I didn’t ask ’cause they can’t talk yet.) and they’re silent until you turn it off.

  15. June 2, 2010 11:14 AM

    See, she shoulda just run a tester. Given him a bit of the juice and waited to see if he turned purple or shit out his eyes or whatever babies do when they have allergic reactions. Then she could take him into ER and be like “no, i thought he was having an allergic reaction to the lobster thermadore so I gave him benedryl cos that’s what people do…” and they could fix him and give her the right “no more allergic death and also sleep for a long time” meds.

    My mom used baby tylenol. And kept a wooden spoon in her purse.

  16. June 2, 2010 11:44 AM

    Sometimes, and I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes, lost in the great vast void of the Internet, I forget how much I love you.

    But then I read posts like this, and I remember.

    And really? I mean, I don’t talk to relatives with babies all that often, but there’s reason you give babies whiskey – and it’s not to prevent glaucoma.

    • June 2, 2010 2:35 PM

      A-friggen-men! My mom rubbed brandy on our gums when we were teething.

      We’re raising pansyass kids these days anyway! They get these soft-landing playmats for their safety plastic swing sets. No chance of tetnus. No scalding their asses on metal slides. No lawn darts. Pffff.

  17. June 2, 2010 4:16 PM

    ROFL @ cross-species parenting.

  18. Deb permalink
    June 2, 2010 10:03 PM

    I hear tequila works on babies, too. Not that I gave any to mine…I would never do that. Maybe.

  19. June 3, 2010 12:55 PM

    I once tried to ask this in a doctor’s office before I took my 3 year old to France on an airplane. “So” clear throat, shift nervously, “is there uh anything, I might uh, give her to make her sleep?” And he looked at me like, ah yes, another mom who wants to put her baby in a coma. I mumbled something about allergies and got out of there before he reported me.

  20. June 3, 2010 2:31 PM

    don’t worry, i’ll take care of the babies. you’re in charge of art. we’re good.

  21. June 3, 2010 9:24 PM

    Oh for lord’s sake why didn’t you just come to Tonya and I directly for such a matter? You call the dr. and ASK WHAT THE DOSAGE WOULD BE IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY ALLERGIC REACTION. I mean, dr.’s basically TELL you that responsible parents have Benadryl in the home in case of a shrimp allergy emergency. So, hello! You need to know how much to dose your baby with in the event he eats a shrimp cocktail and breaks out in a rash. Jessica, Please come to us next time. We’ve dosed our babies many times. We know of what we speak. Christ. I think I have the god damn dosage chart on my fridge!

  22. June 4, 2010 2:00 PM

    I’ve always heard Tylenol. Tell a nurse he’s teething and she should give you the dosage. I know, I know, too little, too late.

  23. redg_rl permalink
    June 7, 2010 8:43 PM

    as i watched the toddler in my care start developing hives one afternoon, i wondered why his parents didn’t have any benadryl around. apparently you have to be at least 3yrs of age? i guess that explains a past ambulance trip or 2 but yr basically doomed then, great. (he was fine shortly thereafter which i’m supremely grateful for).

    i’m sorry to all of the folk who are allergic to this antihistimine as well. it can be an awfully convenient coma if you need one from time to time. if yr like my mum & sister though, you’ll be bouncing off the walls. oddly, some benadryl while flying didn’t work all that well. i guess i was afraid to take the full dose & be completely out of commission when we landed.

    if oren had a bris, he likely had some manishevitz. would a little more hurt? 😉

  24. June 19, 2010 7:00 AM

    I just stumbled across your blog today, and I love it! I don’t have any children either, and people are always passing me their babies. I’m also left saying, “But wait….”

  25. Sean permalink
    June 21, 2010 9:22 AM

    Yes, I love your blog as well! :). I prefer cats to babies myself.

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