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How Do I Thicken Liquids for My Child?

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Shield HealthCare
09/09/13  9:58 PM PST
Thickened liquids

Your child’s doctor or speech therapist may have recommended that you thicken formula and other liquids if your child has swallowing difficulty. Thicker liquids are safer to swallow than thin liquids.

There are many ways to thicken foods and liquids. Commercial thickeners are available in powder or gel form but should not be used in children less than one year old. Many household items can be used to thicken liquids. Which one you choose may be a matter of your child’s taste and tolerance. Try different ones to see which one she likes best.

Household Thickeners

  1. Cornstarch
  2. Unflavored Gelatin
  3. Instant potato flakes
  4. Rice cereal
  5. Fruit puree/baby food

Tips to Thicken Liquids

  1. Start with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) thickener.
  2. Add thickener to the liquid and mix.
  3. Gradually add more thickener until you get the desired consistency.
  4. Serve soon after mixing. The liquid may get thicker as it sits.

Additional Considerations

  • Thickened liquids may be less palatable than thin liquids. Make sure your child gets enough fluid throughout the day. Check with your pediatrician to find out how much fluid your child needs daily.
  • Most thickening agents will add additional calories. Ask your doctor or dietitian if this is an issue for your child.
  • Some thickeners may have the side effect of changing your child’s stools.  Pay special attention to her bowel movements while trying new thickening agents.
  • Do not cut the nipple on your child’s bottle, as this may increase risk of choking or aspiration.

This article is intended for educational use only and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s feeding regimen, contact your healthcare provider.

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