Family Magazine

How to Handle Vomit - A Guide for First-Timers

By Dgmommy @dgmommyblogger
Yesterday, I had the absolute joy of seeing my family in Michigan via Skype. I love Skype! My little brother and his wife are expecting their first child next Spring. When my mom asked how my little Rose was, after all she's been through and her tummy bug last weekend (and another round last night), the questions of an excitedly nervous expectant daddy started coming out. Questions about vomit.
Ironically, the eve of Thanksgiving is the anniversary (not that I celebrate) of our first bout with what's commonly (if not incorrectly) known as the stomach flu. Imagine a night of an 18-month old who couldn't keep anything down, a screaming 3-month-old and a panicked Papa all in one night. Apparently, babies don't get sick in France (wink, wink). Fortunately, he learned to relax after the first few experiences.
To help you and your partner keep calm your first time (and possibly second and third), here's my unofficial guide to handling vomit.

How to Handle Vomit - A Guide for First-Timers

Photo by me. 

A. Get Prepared: 
You'll need:  
- listening skills;
- a large, unbreakable bowl;
- towels (not your good ones)
- spare lovey (optional, but recommended)
1. Listen to Your Child - if they say their tummy isn't feeling good, don't push them to eat. If they are uncharacteristically grumpy or just feeling off (poorly, as they say here in England), ready yourself just in case.
2. Keep a "barf bowl" nearby - The younger the child, the bigger the bowl (more for aim than content). Have the child take it with them wherever they go. Leave it by their bedside at night and make sure they know where it is. Leave a nightlight in their room or the hall. Trust me, you don't want to deal with vomit in the dark.
3. Towel the floor - lay a large towel out alongside their bed. If they don't throw up, no problem - just one semi-dirty towel that can be used as a bathmat. If they do, you've just saved your carpet and the effort it takes to clean vomit out of it.
B. Once it's Started:
1. No Food or Drink for 1 Hour - No, not even a sip. Don't feel bad because they're thirsty; they won't dehydrate in an hour, I promise.* Once your child has thrown-up, expect it to happen again. If you cave and give them fluids too soon they will just come out again. Hold off on food for at least 3-hours.
2. Small Sips - My rule of thumb is a teaspoon of water every 5 to 10 minutes. Just enough to wet their lips. If after 1-hour they haven't thrown up again, go ahead and let them drink...water.
3. Avoid colored food or drink - skip the juice, stick with water. Watermelon might seem like a good first food choice, but it comes out red. Go for applesauce, plain toast or white grapes instead. Your child is suffering, but you have to consider the clean-up. You'll thank me.
4. Get the dirties in the wash ASAP - Vomit stains. The sooner you rinse the chunks and get it in the machine, the better. The last thing either of you want is to be reminded of the night's events every time you look at her favorite blanket. If she missed the towels, treat carpet the second you get your sweetie settled.
Points to remember: 
- A single episode of vomiting is rare. Typically, in my experience, once it starts you're looking at one round per hour for approximately 3 hours. Stick to the food/drink rule and hopefully after that the vomiting will cease.
- It isn't uncommon for your child to feel OK during the day after a rough night, manage to eat and drink, only to toss it all again once or twice the following evening; be prepared!
- Each child has their own unique vomiting style. Some are neat and tidy most of the time and some spray the room, bowl or not. Know your child; good prep will make your clean-up easier.
- Curiously, 90%** of childhood vomiting occurs after 9pm. Don't expect to sleep much that night.
- One vomiting child usually wakes another. Prepare to deal with multiple children crying, but do your very best to keep healthy ones far from sick ones! Two criers is one thing, two vomiters  (I know that isn't a word) is another!
- You usually won't need to consult your doctor for a case of gastroenteritis (the real name for it). But please do so if your child appears dehydrated or the vomiting persists for more than 8 to 12 hours. Visit Kid's Health for more on when to call the doctor.
The good thing about tummy bugs is that they are typically short-lived. Keep calm, be prepared, cuddle your kiddo and you'll both be feeling fine soon!
*I'm not a doctor, so don't sue me. Always check with your pediatrician if you're concerned.
**I made up this statistic based on personal experience.
*** My guide is meant for children ages 1+

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