Is gripe water safe for babies?

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Gripe water is something that Indians have been using to soothe colic pain in babies and newborns for eons

If you have a colicky baby, chances are that you have given or at least thought of giving gripe water to your little one to soothe him. Gripe water is something that Indians have been using to soothe colic pain in babies and newborns for eons. However, there has been a concern regarding its usage as many older brands contained traces of alcohol as well.

How does gripe water work?

Let us first understand what actually is gripe water and what does it contain. Gripe water was created in 1851 by William Woodward(the name behind the popular brand Woodward's), and the original formulation contained alcohol, sugar and some colic-reducing herbs such as dill, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel, ginger, peppermint and yarrow. However, the inclusion of alcohol sparked an outrage and it was finally banned in the Unites States in 1982.

That said, it must also be noted that many newer brands do not contain alcohol or sugar any longer.

  • Currently, gripe water mainly contains dill seed oil, a few herbs and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Some homeopathic versions also contain safe to use herbs such as lemon balm, chamomile, ginger, fennel, caraway, aloe, and peppermint.
  • It aids in breaking down the trapped air bubbles in the stomach, the main reason for colic and gas in babies.
  • It is said that gripe water improves digestion, softens the muscles, and eliminate gas from the baby's system.

Is gripe water safe?

Now we come down to the most important question-- is gripe water safe to be used for babies? The answer would be that it really depends from baby to baby. Doctors, however, feel that it can must be avoided in babies younger than 6 months.

"Babies younger than 4-6 months should only be given the mother's breastmilk. Even in babies older than 6 months it should be avoided and not required as such," says Dr Rahul Manchanda, a leading consultant Gynaecologist Endoscopic surgeon at Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute (PSRI), New Delhi.

Even the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies younger than six months, which means that gripe water should be avoided in newborns. However, if you really want to use gripe water, consult your baby's paediatrician before doing so.

Soothing Colic naturally

Here are some natural ways to soothe colic in infants

  • Besides, there are other ways to soothe colic in babies as well such as burping your baby well after each feed, burping your baby before changing breasts during feeding.
  • Mothers can also include easy to digest foods in their meals. Certain foods such as chickpeas and cauliflower can make the mother gassy and the baby colicky. Such foods must be avoided to soothe colic in infants.
  • Many Indian mothers also swear by heeng and its colic-relieving properties. Read about it here.
  • Massage is another way to easy colic in babies. Learn how to do the ‘Tiger in the tree massage technique’ to soothe baby colic in this article.

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