Should You Give Gripe Water to Babies?

Baby drinking water

Newborns and babies can often cry for no evident reason. The culprit in these cases is usually colic. There is no clear definition as to what colic is but it is a term used when babies cry excessively for an extended period of time. It is typically observed in babies that are between three weeks and three months old. Abdominal uneasiness caused by gas is widely believed to cause colic and for many parents, gripe water is the remedy of choice.

What is Gripe Water?

Gripe water is a formulation intended to soothe discomfort caused by flatulence, colic, indigestion, hiccups, and teething pain. There are different varieties of this formulation available, and they contain a mixture of different herbs.

Gripe Water – Ingredients

Fennel, ginger, chamomile, liquorice, cinnamon, and lemon balm are some of the ingredients that are found in gripe water. Originally water, alcohol, dill seed oil, sugar, and sodium bicarbonate were the ingredients of this remedy. Glycerine is also an ingredient used in some brands. The use of alcohol in gripe water has been discontinued in current times following objections from parents and doctors. Some brands are also known to use artificial sweeteners which can be harmful to baby’s health. Mint oil may be found in some Indian brands.

Gripe water is available in different flavours such as orange or strawberry.

Is Gripe Water Safe for Babies?

There is no concrete evidence that can prove that gripe water is not safe for babies. Opinions differ on whether gripe water is effective as some have found it helpful for their babies while others have not. As far as safety goes, those which contain alcohol, artificial sweeteners, or sodium bicarbonate are not recommended for babies.

Here is a breakdown of some ingredients of gripe water and how they affect the baby:

Alcohol: Alcohol is not suitable for babies and can lead to the baby developing an addiction to it.

Sodium Bicarbonate: Also known as baking soda, this can lead to a milk-alkali syndrome which causes a surge in the levels of calcium in the blood. Since babies under six months are solely fed breastmilk or formula, they are at greater risk of this condition which can also cause kidney problems.

Sugar: Excess sugar can lead to decay of the gums and the developing teeth.

Dill Seed Oil: This is a plant oil with known benefits offering relief from indigestion. However, some babies might be allergic to it and thus caution must be exercised while using this ingredient.

Despite the increased awareness about natural ingredients and baby food composition, some brands of the formulation may contain parabens, vegetable carbon, or dairy products that are ideally to be avoided. The view of doctors is also divided on whether babies can be given gripe water. There are different brands in the market and babies should be given the one that is most suitable to their condition and constitution.

What is the Use of Gripe Water?

Gripe water is said to have plenty of benefits from soothing colicky infants to easing certain digestion problems and hiccups. Babies who have flatulence might benefit from consuming it, as also those with gastrointestinal problems like acidity. Teething babies tend to be irritable and cry a lot. This can cause them to swallow a good amount of air which then leads to flatulence. Hiccups which result when the diaphragm is irritated can prove bothersome to babies and are caused by flatulence, acid reflux, or indigestion. Gripe water is thought to soothe the diaphragm and thus provide babies relief from hiccups.

Baby drinking water

When Can Babies Have Gripe Water?

The manufacturers of gripe water claim that it can be given to babies as young as two weeks. However, it is not advisable to offer it to babies under one month since their digestive tract is still developing and can be sensitive. There are also those who opine that babies should not be given anything other than breast milk or formula till six months. So, the best option is to consult with your paediatrician about when baby can be given the formulation.

How to Give Gripe Water to A Baby?

About ten minutes after a feed is the best time to give the baby some gripe water. It can be administered to the baby using a dropper or a spoon and owing to the pleasant taste, most babies will ingest it without any fuss. It is usually given once a day but as always, your doctor might be able to advise you better on the dosage.

Side Effects of Gripe Water

There are no clinically-proven side-effects of gripe water. However, it is possible that your baby is allergic to one or more of the ingredients in a particular brand. Checking the list of ingredients can help you avoid those brands. Hives, watery eyes, swollen lips or tongue, vomiting, itchiness, and any change in breathing pattern after consuming gripe water may be signs of an allergic reaction. Seek medical attention immediately if your baby shows any such side-effects.

Can Gripe Water Be Mixed with Milk Formula?

Mixing gripe water with formula involves replacing some of the water used to prepare the formula milk, with gripe water instead. This can change the taste of the formula. You can mix it with water or breast milk but there is a chance that your baby may start demanding this mixture all the time.

For best results, administer it to the baby in its original form.

Alternatives for Baby Gripe Water

Besides gripe water, there are quite a few ways in which you can soothe your baby and help him feel better. Try a gentle tummy massage to help rid the abdominal tension and gas. Switching the brand of formula milk might prove helpful for some babies. When your baby is cranky put him over your shoulder and gently tap their back to help them burp. At times, this might be all that is needed to help your baby feel better. Swaddling your baby can be comforting and help him relax. If possible, ensure that your baby is exclusively breastfed until six months of age as breastmilk is best to keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy.

Tips for Choosing & Giving Gripe Water

If you must give your baby gripe water, use these tips to ensure you find the right type for the little one.

  • Don’t choose a formulation which has sodium bicarbonate as it can cause imbalances in the pH levels of your baby’s stomach.
  • Go through the ingredients list carefully to ensure there is nothing your baby is allergic to.
  • Keep an eye out for any side-effects or reactions.
  • Consult with your doctor about the dosage and the brand to be used.
  • Try to find a brand that uses as many natural ingredients as possible.
  • Don’t buy gripe water that contains any amount of alcohol.
  • Steer clear of solutions which have sucrose, vegetable carbon, or charcoal.
  • Read the instructions and administer the right dosage as recommended.

Baby drinking water

Cranky babies and colic have been around for as long as there have been babies in this world! But gripe water might not be the solution every time. It is important for you to try and understand why your baby is irritated or in pain. The next step is soothing and comforting the little one without the use of any external agents. This might be difficult if you are a first-time parent as nothing may seem to work. However, once you get the hang of it, things will settle down and you will know exactly how to calm down your baby.

Disclaimer: This information is just a guide and not a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.

Also Read: Cow’s milk for babies – An Overview