When Can My Baby Take Motrin?

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It's one of those nights when neither you nor your baby is getting much sleep at all. It seems like every time your head hits the pillow, another piercing cry summons you to the nursery. You feed, change, and rock your baby, but it doesn't help. You're sure they are not too hot or too cold, and you have remembered to check their fingers and toes for a hair tourniquet.

Then you run a finger along their gums, and there it is: a tooth is working its way up to the surface. It breaks your heart when you realize your little one is crying from teething pain. You want to ease the discomfort, but you are not sure if your baby is old enough to take a painkiller.

Motrin (ibuprofen) may help with teething pain, but it is only safe for babies who are over 6 months of age. "Because Motrin is cleared by the kidneys, a baby's kidneys need to be mature enough to process [this class of drug]," explains Molly O’Shea, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician, consultant, parent coach, and speaker. Here, learn more about Motrin safety for babies.

What Is Motrin?

Motrin is a brand name for the active ingredient, ibuprofen, used for pain relief, fever reduction, and inflammation. It belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

NSAIDs work by blocking the release of enzymes called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are not necessarily bad—they actually play a role in the healing process by recruiting lots of white blood cells to an area of injury or infection.

White blood cells are incredibly good at fighting infections, but an excess of white blood cells may result in excessive inflammation, leading to pain and fever. When this occurs, taking an NSAID such as Motrin can reduce the discomfort.

When Is It Safe for My Baby to Take Motrin?

It is generally safe for babies to take Motrin when they are at least 6 months old. Before 6 months, you should refrain from giving your baby Motrin, since it can hurt their developing kidneys.

The dosage for a 6-month-old who weighs 12 to 17 pounds (6 to 7 kilograms) is 1.5 milliliters of the infant drops or 2.5 milliliters of the children's liquid Motrin. Motrin can be dosed every six to eight hours as needed.

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about giving your baby Motrin.

Why Choose Motrin for Your Baby?

If your baby is over 6 months old, Motrin may help to relieve pain or fever. Getting an uncomfortable baby comfortable again has a whole host of benefits, not the least of which is that they are no longer crying constantly and everyone in your household can actually get some sleep. And of course, you just want them to stop hurting.

Many parents claim that Motrin works better than Tylenol when it comes to teething. "If you have been giving your baby Tylenol but it doesn't seem to be very effective in reducing fever or pain, you can switch to Motrin once they are 6 months old," says Maria Ortiz-Tweed, MD, a pediatrician from Tampa, Fla. who has been providing pediatric care for over 20 years.

Motrin may work better because the effects do not wear off as fast. "Motrin lasts six to eight hours," notes Dr. O'Shea. "This allows your baby to be comfortable longer than if they were taking Tylenol." It is also possible to alternate doses between these two types of drugs every three hours, maximizing their effect. Just make sure never alternate Motrin with another brand name for ibuprofen, such as Advil.

Risks of Giving Baby Motrin Too Soon

Motrin should never be given to babies who are younger than 6 months old. "Before then, a baby's kidneys are not mature enough to process NSAIDs," explains Dr. O'Shea. "Motrin can cause temporary or permanent damage to the kidney if it is given to a baby that is too young "

Moreover, Motrin is not approved by the FDA and has not been found to be safe in babies younger than 6 months of age. "Along with affecting the kidneys, Motrin [given too young] may affect the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach," notes Dr. Ortiz-Tweed.

Safety Precautions

If you give Motrin to your baby who's 6 months old or older, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind.

Avoid if Your Baby Has Certain Conditions

There are some conditions that could make Motrin unsafe for your baby. For example, if your baby has had an allergic reaction to aspirin, they may also react to Motrin. (Note that the AAP cautions against aspirin use in children due to its association with Reye Syndrome.) Also, if your baby has had a history of gastrointestinal bleeding or kidney or liver disease, Motrin may not be safe for them.

Babies who are anemic or have a blood-clotting defect may not be able to take Motrin. The same goes for babies who have been treated with blood thinners or corticosteroids.

Always check with your baby's pediatrician about whether Motrin is safe for your child, especially if they have any health conditions or take any other medications.

Dose Appropriately

Motrin is dosed by weight, so it's important to give your baby the correct dosage. Check whether you have infant drops or children's liquid since these types are dosed differently.

When giving your baby Motrin, you can give additional dosages every six to eight hours. Do not give more than four doses in a 24-hour period.

Encourage Fluids

Encourage extra fluids if your baby is taking Motrin. That may mean offering an additional nursing session or bottle. If your child is over age 1, try to get them to drink more water.

If you notice that your baby isn't peeing as much as normal, that means they are not getting enough fluids. In this case, Motrin should be avoided.

A Word From Verywell

It is OK to give Motrin to babies when they are at least 6 months old. It is not safe to give Motrin to infants that are less than 6 months of age because their kidneys are not developed enough to process it.

Make sure to stick to the recommended Motrin dosage based on your baby's age and weight, and do not exceed more than four doses in a 24-hour period. Ensure that your baby is getting plenty of fluids while taking Motrin. If you notice they are not peeing very much, stop using it. Finally, always reach out to your pediatrician with any questions or concerns about giving your baby Motrin or any medication.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ibuprofen Dosing Table for Fever and Pain. American Academy of Pediatrics.

  2. Motrin. Johnson & Johnson.

  3. NSAIDs. National Health Service.

  4. Ricciotti E, FitzGerald GA. Prostaglandins and inflammation. ATVB. 2011;31(5):986-1000. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.110.207449.

  5. Smith C, Goldman RD. Alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen for pain in children. Can Fam Physician. 2012;58(6):645-647.

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Reye Syndrome.

  7. Ibuprofen Drug Facts Label. US Food & Drug Administration.

  8. Signs of Dehydration in Infants and Children. American Academy of Pediatrics.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.