Taking care of a newborn is not easy, especially when your newborn has colic. When your newborn has colic, you try whatever you can do to make him feel better. One of the common remedies for colic in newborns is gripe water. However, there is little to no scientific research to prove this. So is gripe water safe for newborns? And how much gripe water can you give newborn?
I have spent hours researching gripe water to see whether it is safe to use or how much you can use or how often you can use it so you don't have to.
Let's dive in.
What is gripe water?
First of all, let's find out what is gripe water.
Gripe water is a liquid that contains sodium bicarbonate and herbs. Depending on the brand and the formula, the herbs in gripe water are fennel, ginger, peppermint, lemon juice, etc.
Manufacturers of Gripe Water claim that Gripe Water can ease gas pains and all the stomach problems as well as help with teething pain, hiccups, and all other common baby issues.
Many parents and grandparents also swear by the stuff but currently, there is no strong evidence that gripe water can help to soothe troubled little tummies.
Gripe water is not approved by the FDA, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says they are a safe option to try with a reasonable dosage.
Let’s see what they mean by that.
Is gripe water safe for newborns? What do doctors say?
According to India Times, Dr. Rohit Arora, Head of Neonatology & Pediatric, Miracles Mediclinic & Apollo Cradle Hospital, doesn’t recommend gripe water and he suggests that parents should avoid giving gripe water to their children. The reason is that the manufacturers do not specify all the ingredients in gripe water, so cannot tell if it is safe. He also added that if parents want to try, gripe water should be given after the child is 3 months old.
Dr. Sumit Kumar Gupta, Consultant Paediatrician, Columbia Asia, Ghaziabad, also commented that gripe water is neither beneficial nor harmful.
That being said, there is little to no recommendation from doctors regarding gripe water. However, they also do not strongly oppose it.
As there is no research or study to recommend or oppose gripe water, if you consult a doctor before giving it to your child, he will only give you his opinion or what he believes. But in reality, it is more of a “trial and error” approach.
But one thing they are certain of, that is you need to watch out for the ingredients in gripe water and avoid choosing gripe water that contains sugar or alcohol.
If you’d like to give it a try, make sure that your baby’s doctor is on board with giving gripe water. And even your doctor says yes, consider using gripe water only as a backup when other gas relief methods — like abdominal massage, tummy time, or leg bicycling — don’t seem to be making your baby more comfortable.
What is in gripe water? And what they do
Gripe water doesn’t have a fixed formula. Different gripe waters contain different ingredients.
Depending on the ingredients, the respective gripe water is believed to help with certain issues.
Here are the ingredients in the most common gripe water:
Sodium bicarbonate (commonly known as baking soda)
Baking soda is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. Once contacting other acids in the stomach, it creates a chemical reaction and releases H2O and CO2.
Therefore, you can find baking soda in many cooking recipes, to help the food become puffier.
So what does it do in gripe water?
Well, it still does the same thing. So it neutralizes the stomach acid, which helps to reduce bloating and discomfort.
However, if too much, it can interfere with the natural pH level in the baby's stomach. This, in turn, can worsen colic symptoms.
Fennel is a source of vitamin B-6, which plays a vital role in energy metabolism by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. The body can easily use these smaller compounds for energy.
What does it mean? It means that fennel can be a great help in digesting food.
According to MedicalNewsToday, “the fiber content in fennel helps to prevent constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract”.
Ginger or ginger extract contains several different phenolic compounds, some of which have displayed antineoplastic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities.
What does it mean?
It means that ginger could make the digestive system empty faster, reduce the time for food to stay in your baby’s stomach, and cause bloating.
According to WebMD, If you live with chronic indigestion, also called dyspepsia, ginger could bring some relief.
According to WebMD, “one product with chamomile and other herbal medicines has been shown to ease an upset stomach, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. Another mixture with chamomile seems to help colicky babies.”
Some research even suggests that chamomile could help with other conditions, like diarrhea in children.
Dill leaves are common herbs used in cooking recipes as they create a unique and appetite smell for the food. However, most people don’t know that dill leaves have excellent digestive qualities.
Because dill leaves contain anti-flatulent properties, which reduces the formation of gas. This, in turn, reduces bloating, flatulence, and abdominal distension. They also prevent the formation of excessive acid in the stomach.
What’s more, dill leaves are filled with fiber that helps expel waste out of the digestive system and support greatly in treating constipation.
Some studies have shown that peppermint can ease stomach pain in babies, as well as relieve nausea and vomiting.
Vegetable glycerin is a common ingredient in gripe water because it can draw water into the gut and has a laxative effect. These effects of vegetable glycerin help digested food to move through the gut smoothly.
Therefore, vegetable glycerin can help to relieve constipation.
Lemon juice or citric acid
Lemon juice mainly contains citric acid. Citric acid enhances the bioavailability of minerals, allowing your body to better absorb them.
Therefore, many health experts recommend drinking lemon water before meals to promote and improve digestion.
However, according to WebMD, the side effect of citric acid is nausea and vomiting if used too much.
Purified or deionized water is used to mix all the ingredients. This is also a reason that doctors do not recommend using gripe water, because before 6 months old, children should not be drinking anything else except breast milk or formula.
How much gripe water can you give a newborn?
In general, you can give gripe water to a newborn from 3 to 6 doses per day. Each dose is from 0.5mil to 2.5mil for babies who are from 2 to 4 weeks old, 0.5mil to 5mil for babies from 6 to 10 weeks old, 0.5mil to 10mil for babies from 10 weeks to 6 months old, and 1mil to 10mil for babies from 6 months old.
Giving too much gripe water
Let’s find out if too much gripe water can be harmful to your baby, both in the short-term and long-term.
Sodium bicarbonate is not a cause of colic. However, if given continuously in large doses, sodium bicarbonate can cause alkalosis and milk-alkali syndrome.
According to the Times of India, consuming too many fennel seeds can stimulate the uterus, cause allergy, cause skin infection, can affect breasts, and may react with medicines. If your baby is under some sort of medication for epilepsy, avoid gripe water with fennel seed in it.
Regarding ginger, ginger and ginger extract typically don't cause side effects but if you consume too much ginger you may experience some stomach discomfort. Some side effects include belching, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, mouth irritation, nausea, and an upset stomach.
Chamomile is safe in general. However, when consuming too much chamomile, can cause drowsiness and vomiting. What's more, for very sensitive babies, chamomile also has the potential to trigger allergic reactions although this is very rare.
Same thing with dill. Dill is quite safe but still can cause allergic reactions to sensitive tummies.
According to WebMD, consuming too much peppermint can cause some side effects including heartburn, vomiting, dry mouth, and nausea.
Vegetable glycerin is a form of sugar alcohol that your body cannot fully absorb. Consuming too much vegetable glycerin may also lead to gas and diarrhea. What's more, vegetable glycerin can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and excessive thirst.
In large amounts, almost anything can be harmful. Regarding citric acid, if you take too much Gripe Water with citric acid, your baby may suffer from side effects such as nausea or vomiting.
Is some gripe water, one of the ingredients is sugar or sugar alternative. While it helps to give a sweet taste to the gripe water so your baby likes it, You don't want to soothe your baby with sugar. the high level of sugar content in gripe water can harm their erupting teeth.
What’s more, even though most ingredients in gripe water are generally safe and are not allergic factors, some sensitive babies still can be allergic to it.
Same as every other type of food, after giving gripe water to your baby, check for some signs such as hives, watery eyes, vomiting, itchiness, etc. When these signs appear, take your baby to the hospital or call your doctor right away.
Also, if you are giving gripe water to your baby for the first time, make sure you always follow the dosage in the instructions and do not overdose.