700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

What Can Kids Eat Before and After Surgery?

Oct 08, 2019
Baby sitting at a table with a bowl

Preparing your child to have surgery can be a stressful time. Having information about what to expect before and after surgery can help alleviate some of this stress.

Before Surgery

The surgery department should be in contact approximately one to three days before your child’s procedure to review when your child should stop eating and drinking prior to surgery. The instructions provided during this phone call are important to follow for the safety of your child.

Children should have no solid food eight hours before surgery. Children should also avoid chewing gum, because if swallowed, it will delay surgery and rescheduling may be required.

It is recommended to discontinue formula, or non-human milk, at least six hours prior to surgery. Breast milk can be continued up to four hours before all general surgeries. However, if your provider has recommended a bowel prep before your child’s surgery or procedure, please follow your provider’s recommended instructions on when to discontinue breast milk.

Breast milk must be avoided during a bowel prep as it produces stool and may delay your child’s surgery if continued. If your child is going through a bowel prep, please avoid foods that are hard for the body to process such as corn or beans. Avoiding these foods will allow for an easier bowel prep. Bowel preps are typically recommended for children when surgery is being performed on their abdomen or with any procedure which involves the intestines and rectum. Your provider will notify you if your child’s surgery or procedure will involve a bowel prep and the proper steps to take.

After Surgery

The safety and well-being of your child’s recovery after anesthesia is a health care provider’s number one priority. Children should wake naturally and be alert prior to giving them anything to eat or drink. The type of surgery also can effect when your child may be allowed to eat or drink anything.

If your child has a belly surgery, they will likely not be allowed to eat or drink anything until they have passed gas or stool. This can sometimes take 24-48 hours to occur, as the anesthesia can make the bowels a little “sleepy”. Eating or drinking too early after surgery can sometimes make your child nauseated or they may vomit. The goal is to avoid this and is why they shouldn’t be offered anything until after they pass gas or stool.

The best thing you can do with your child post operatively is WALK! Walking is an amazing activity that can help promote the return of bowel function as well as decreasing the risk deep vein thrombosis (DVT’s). DVT’s are blood clots in the legs and can occur when someone is not as active as they are on a typical day. You don’t need to have your child walk far, but a little activity to start and then slowly progressing will be greatly beneficial to the recovery period after surgery.

Your care team will give you clear guidelines on when it is safest to feed your child and walk after surgery. For more information on what kids can eat and drink before surgery, click here.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.