Should You Give Gripe Water to Your Baby?
- What is Gripe Water?
- Gripe Water Ingredients
- Is Gripe Water Safe for Babies?
- What is the Use of Gripe Water?
- When Can Babies Have Gripe Water?
- How to Give Gripe Water to a Baby
- Side Effects of Gripe Water
- Can Gripe Water Be Mixed With Formula Milk?
- Alternatives to Gripe Water
- Tips for Choosing & Giving Gripe Water
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 between the age of three weeks to three months. Abdominal uneasiness caused by gas is widely believed to cause colic, and many parents opt for gripe water to remedy this situation.
What is Gripe Water?
Gripe water is a liquid solution intended to soothe the discomfort caused by flatulence, colic, indigestion, hiccups, and teething pain. There are different varieties of this liquid 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 used to make gripe water. Glycerine is also an ingredient used in some brands. The use of alcohol in gripe water has been discontinued, following objections from parents and doctors. Some brands are also known to use artificial sweeteners which can be harmful to a baby’s health. Mint oil is another ingredient that can be found in some Indian brands of gripe water. It 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 unsafe 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, the brands of gripe water that contain alcohol, artificial sweeteners, or sodium bicarbonate are not recommended for babies.
Here is a breakdown of some of the traditional 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.
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 breast milk or formula, they are at greater risk of developing this condition which can also cause kidney problems.
Sugar: Excess sugar can lead to tooth decay and cause a dependence on sugar at an early age.
Dill Seed Oil: This is an essential oil that is known for offering relief from indigestion. However, some babies might be allergic to it. Therefore, caution must be exercised while using this ingredient.
Present-day gripe water is alcohol-free but its use for infants is not recommended as there are no proven health benefits and use of any prelacteal feeds in infants is not recommended by WHO.
The companies selling gripe water are not regulated. So they do not exactly specify the ingredients they use to process the liquid. You do not know if the ingredients are safe or not. Gripe water is neither beneficial nor harmful. Gripe water is just fennel seed water. Sometimes it even contains chemicals. So, we don’t advise parents to give gripe water to their child. The brands of gripe water available in the Indian market are alcohol-free but contain sodium bicarbonate. When sodium bicarbonate is fed in a large quantity, it may cause alkalosis and milk-alkali syndrome.
Despite the increased awareness about natural ingredients and baby food composition, some brands of gripe water may contain parabens, vegetable carbon, or dairy products that ideally should be avoided. Some doctors believe that gripe water can be given to babies, while others think that it should be avoided. There are different brands of gripe water available in the market and babies should be given the one that is suitable to their condition. A doctor must be consulted before giving gripe water to a baby.
What is the Use of Gripe Water?
It is believed that gripe water is useful in treating colic in infants and also helps in easing certain digestion problems and hiccups. Teething babies tend to be irritable and cry a lot. This can cause them to swallow a good amount of air which can lead to flatulence. Babies suffering from flatulence or gastrointestinal problems like acidity might benefit from consuming it. Another way gripe water is useful is in the treatment of hiccups. Hiccups, which occur when the diaphragm is irritated, can prove to be bothersome to babies and are caused by flatulence, acid reflux, or indigestion. Gripe water is thought to soothe the diaphragm and, thus, provide relief from hiccups.
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 the age of six months, since their digestive tract is still developing and is sensitive. Many people also believe that babies should not be given anything other than breast milk or formula until they are six months old. So, the best option is to consult with your paediatrician before giving gripe water to your baby.
How to Give Gripe Water to a Baby
Though it is not advisable to give gripe water to babies, traditionally it is given about ten minutes after a feed. It can be administered to the baby using a dropper or a spoon. Owing to its pleasant taste, most babies will ingest it without any fuss. It is usually given once a day, but, your doctor will be able to advise you regarding the dosage.
Side Effects of Gripe Water
There are no clinically-proven side effects of gripe water. However, your baby may be 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 your baby’s breathing pattern after consuming gripe water may be signs of an allergic reaction. Seek medical help immediately if your baby shows any of these signs.
Can Gripe Water Be Mixed With Formula Milk?
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 to Gripe Water
Besides gripe water, there are quite a few ways that you can opt for to soothe your baby and help him feel better.
Try a gentle tummy massage to help get rid of abdominal tension and gas. Applying light pressure on the baby’s tummy by rubbing his belly might also help in soothing him.
Change the Formula Milk
Switching the brand of formula milk might prove helpful for some babies. If your baby is prone to gastric issues, the formula milk you are giving him might not be suitable. Discuss with your baby’s paediatrician and change the formula milk.
When your baby is cranky, put him over your shoulder and gently rub his back to help him burp. You can also make him sit on your lap and gently pat his back to make him 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. It helps in calming the baby if he is over-stimulated or irritable.
If possible, ensure that your baby is exclusively breastfed until he is six months of age ,as breast milk is the best option 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 of gripe water for your little one.
- Don’t choose a solution which contains 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 allergic 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 alcohol.
- Steer clear of solutions which have sucrose, vegetable carbon, or charcoal.
- Read the instructions carefully and administer the right dosage as recommended by the paediatrician.
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. You need 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 you do may seem to work. However, once you get the hang of it, things will settle down, and you will know exactly how to calm your baby down.
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