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If you've been treating your baby with acetaminophen and you run out, it's fine to switch from acetaminophen to ibuprofen or vice versa. (This is assuming your baby is 6 months old or older; ibuprofen isn't recommended for babies before their half birthday.) These medicines both relieve pain and fever, though they work differently in the body. The most important thing is to give correct doses and follow the recommended schedule.
There are other times when you might want to switch from one to the other, too. Let's say you gave your baby ibuprofen an hour or two ago, and her fever is still high or she's no more comfortable than she was before she took the medicine. In this instance, it's okay to give acetaminophen a try now. In fact, because you can't give her ibuprofen again for six to eight hours after the first dose, it may be helpful to try a new tack. If acetaminophen does the trick, your baby won't need any medication at all for another six to eight hours.
It's not a good idea, though, to get in the habit of giving your baby alternating doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, because ongoing alternating doses can be hard on the kidneys. In general, try to stick with whichever one works for your baby.
If you have any questions at all about when to give which medication, call the doctor. And if your baby's younger than 3 months, call the doctor before giving her any medication whatsoever. A baby this young needs to be checked out for serious illness.
Giving your baby the exact recommended dosage will help ensure that whichever pain reliever you choose will be effective. Better to give her the full dose than to give her a little less than is recommended and then have to resort to a different pain reliever when the smaller dose doesn't work.
(Editors' note: To find recommended dosage amounts by weight, see our dosage charts for acetaminophen and ibuprofen.)