Is your baby gassy? Is your baby crying often? Is your baby spitting up? Does your baby need to be held a lot?? These are all NORMAL things about having an infant and yet in our culture, we have turned what is commonplace infant behavior into “disorder”. Often, in our concern and care to help mothers and babies, it is suggested that we give a baby something to “help”. We often look for the “cure” for the disorder but we don’t always make sure to see the whole baby and the whole family dynamic.
I question whether gripe water or other “supplements” suggested do actually help. What a baby typically needs most is simply to be snuggled and breastfed.
I have been there! I recall my daughter at about 4 months, crying in my arms. I had offered to nurse her, changed her diaper, tried baby massage, walked the house and then finally sat back down and cried with her. I called a friend and she suggested I try a brand of gripe water that she used. And I did. And I wonder looking back if it led to more of her challenges and impaired her gi tract? She ended up having more issues that had nothing to do with using gripe water or not. And I really wasn’t sure if it worked at all.
A little human baby needs nothing more than their parent’s own milk for the first 6 months (They do also need vitamin d http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/vitamin_d.htm). This is not because something is wrong with our milk but because we don’t spend enough time in the sunshine and we don’t have the best nutrition either. Both breastfed and formula fed babies need this.
Did you know that in the USA gripe water used to be sold as a “drug” and in 1982 it was BANNED? Now it is sold in the USA as a “supplement” as a way to get around the medical ban. Some forms are alcohol free but others are not. It was assumed the alcohol is what helped the colic but it is most likely the sugar or sweetener added…(breastmilk, especially colostrum is VERY SWEET and comforting too btw). Bicarbonate has a neutralizing effect but remember that this impacts baby gi tract and pH level and may even cause alkalosis if used too often. “Alkalosis is a condition in which the body fluids have excess base (alkali).” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001183.htm
There have even been recalls of gripe water for things like parasites, which cause intestinal infections. Just because something is made from herbs or nature, doesn’t make it safe for a baby. “Gripe water” is now a generic term but each brand has different formulations of ingredients. A recall of one brand in 2005 had horrible consequences for babies. “The most common symptom of infection is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms can include dehydration, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.” http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ArchiveRecalls/2005/ucm112282.htm
There are also questions about allergies to gripe water. Why risk adding something to your baby’s body that they don’t need and that isn’t proven to work? Gripe water is heavily used because of word of mouth. And that is because we all want to help our friends out. We all know how hard those early days are! Many families consider trying solids one item at a time but usually gripe waters have many different ingredients depending on the brand and pure water isn’t one of them. When prompted about if it really worked to help things such as colic (what is the reason behind the colic) or gas (gas is normal for all humans and not a health problem), it seems most people don’t feel it works all that well anyway. So why risk it?
The best information you can share with your friends and family who are having challenges with fussy baby (breastfed or formula fed) is helpful information on how to soothe crying and what normal nights are like.
This link can be helpful and healthy. Sometimes it helps to know that it isn’t anything wrong we are doing or something wrong with our milk or our baby! “Fussing and crying are the most important means by which an infant communicates needs and desires.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201301/simple-ways-calm-crying-baby
Another key to know is that a baby spends a lot of time each day needing to be held. Babies who are not held often, cry more. And babies who are responded to quickly and routinely, cry less. Baby wearing can really help a parent to tune into their child and can help immensely with crying and fussiness. For more information on baby wearing check out http://www.babywearinginternational.org.
So, what if you’ve already tried gripe water? Ask yourself if you feel it is really working. Ask your baby’s health care provider about it as well. Ask them for studies because often they suggest gripe water too because they are trying to be helpful…or they tried it themselves. Do they feel it works? Gripe water is so common! I am not trying to scare parents here. The American Academy of Pediatrics has this information on Herbs & Supplements on their website http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/Committees-Councils-Sections/Section-on-Integrative-Medicine/Documents/GI_Disorders.ppt and lists gripe water as “Generally Recognized as Safe”. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/. I personally feel the benefits don’t outweigh the risks in most situations, especially when we are talking about a baby under 6 months of age (or longer if your baby was born early). If your baby seems to be in pain or have more issues than the typical “fussy” baby, then it is helpful to get to your healthcare provider sooner than later. You can work to uncover the real issue that may be going on rather than using gripe water and holding off on that. If you are using gripe water and feel it works, you know your baby best. There may be exceptions to everything but consider your baby’s age and stage carefully.
For more information and the resources used in this blog please see below:
“…newborn infants should not be given food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated”
The Gripe Water Story
FDA Recall of Baby’s Bliss Gripe Water
Alkalosis: Medline Plus Definition
Consumer Products Safety Commission
US Food and Drug Administration
Pseudomonas aeruginosa septic shock secondary to “Gripe Water” ingestion
Sas, David D.O., M.P.H.; Enrione, Maria A. M.D.; Schwartz, Richard H. M.D.
Large numbers of babies are given gripe water for no valid reason or for only trivial symptoms
A gripe about gripe water