According to the World Health Organization (WHO), newborn infants shouldn't be given food or drink other than breast milk.

According to the WHO, newborn infants shouldn't be given food or drink other than breast milk.

As gripe water is a supplement and not a medication, it doesn't come under the regulation of the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA), which means that there is no guarantee for the ingredients mentioned on the label. Hence, gripe water cannot be termed safe for newborns. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), newborn infants shouldn't be given food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated because these may introduce bacteria or allergens in the intestine, thus irritating it or causing infections. Some of the contents in the gripe water can be harmful to the newborns:

  • Alcohol, as high as 9%, can cause developmental problems in babies.
  • Wheat or dairy products in gripe water can upset the baby's stomach.
  • Sucrose can prove to be unsafe for children because it can harm the erupting teeth.
  • Gluten, dairy, parabens, and vegetable carbon can induce allergies in children.
  • Sodium bicarbonate present in gripe water doesn't have a specific role in treating colic. Long-term use of sodium bicarbonate may cause an increase in blood alkalinity or pH.

If gripe water is given continuously, it can also lead to the following:

  • Delayed or slow growth
  • Inadequate weight gain
  • Not being hungry for breast milk or formula, thus missing out on nutrition

What is gripe water?

Gripe water is a herbal medication available in liquid form. It has been effective in treating colic in children. The main components of gripe water include the following:

When choosing gripe water, parents should check the label and avoid the product if it contains the following:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Sucrose

Colic is defined as excessive crying for more than 3 hours a day at least 3 days a week for 3 weeks or more in an otherwise healthy baby. One of the possible reasons could be stomach discomfort in children when unable to pass gas. The exact cause of colic is unknown; hence, there is no accepted conventional treatment. Infantile colic is self-limiting because it resolves at about 3 months of age.

The herbs in gripe water are known to relieve digestive problems; hence, this formulation was recommended by the physician for the treatment of colic pain.

Gripe water has also been used to treat the following:

As gripe water is a supplement and not a medication, it doesn't come under the regulation of the U.S. FDA, which means that there is no guarantee for the ingredients mentioned on the label.

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What are the side effects of gripe water?

With the newer formulations of gripe water, it has been claimed that they are generally safe. However, it is important to monitor for any of these side effects:

What are the alternatives for gripe water?

If the pediatrician doesn't feel gripe water is safe for your baby, they may recommend alternatives like:

  • Massaging the baby to soothe colic
  • Applying pressure on the tummy by placing the child facing down and gently rubbing the back
  • Wrapping the child in a warm, cuddly blanket, and holding them tight
  • Changing the brand of formula milk to soy-based milk
  • Exclusion of cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts from the mother's diet
  • Prescription medications to soothe colic

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Medically Reviewed on 5/10/2022
References
Johnson JD, Cocker K, Chang E. "Infantile Colic: Recognition and Treatment." Am Fam Physician. Oct 1, 2015;92(7):577-582. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/1001/p577.html

Jain K, Gunasekaran D, Venkatesh C, et al. "Gripe Water Administration in Infants 1-6 months of Age-A Cross-sectional Study." J Clin Diagn Res. November 2015;9(11):SC06-SC08. https://jcdr.net/article_fulltext.asp?issn=0973-709x&year=2015&volume=9&issue=11&page=SC06&issn=0973-709x&id=6738

Sas D, Enrione M, Schwartz R. "Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Septic Shock Secondary to 'Gripe Water' Ingestion." Pediatr Infect Dis J. February 2004; 23(2):176-177. doi: 10.1097/01.inf.0000109722.53766.4f

Soloway, RAG. "Don't Give Herbal Supplements to Infants." Poison Control. <https://www.poison.org/articles/2011-oct/dont-give-herbal-supplements-to-infants>.