Eating and Drinking Guidelines

Tips for Preparing your Child for a Procedure

It is very important to carefully follow the eating and drinking guidelines to prevent your child’s operation from being delayed or canceled. To decrease the risk of complications associated with vomiting, your child’s stomach must be empty before surgery.

At midnight the evening before surgery, do not give your child solid food, including:

  • Formula (breast-feeding can continue longer; see instructions below)
  • Juice with pulp (such as orange juice)
  • Milk or milk products
  • Hot or cold cereal
  • Pudding
  • Chewing gum
  • Candy or mints

If your child is breast-fed, you may continue to breast-feed until four hours before the scheduled surgery time.

Your child may have clear liquids until 4 hours before the surgery time. Clear liquids include apple juice, water, JELL-O, popsicles, sports drinks (like Gatorade), and Pedialyte.

To recap, here are the guidelines about eating and drinking before surgery:

  • No solids, milk, or formula after midnight.
  • No chewing gum or candy (including breath mints) after midnight, as these are considered solid food.
  • No brushing teeth the morning of surgery.
  • No clear liquids (sugar water, apple juice, etc.) within 4 hours prior to surgery.
  • No breast milk within four hours prior to surgery.
  • Prescribed tablets, capsules, or liquid medications should be taken with a sip of water at usual time, but before leaving home. If your child has difficulty taking oral medicine this way, please discuss this with the pre-op nurse at the time of the pre-operative call.

Special note: While we would never advise their use, on the day of surgery do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use recreational drugs. These can cause your surgery to be unsafe and cancelled.   

To learn how to prepare your child, and his or her siblings, emotionally for surgery, visit Talking to Your Child.