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Ask Dr. Marla: Fussy baby? Skip the gripe water

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My friends keep telling me to give my baby gripe water when she’s fussing. What is it exactly and how does it work?


Gripe water is a liquid that is often used for reasons ranging from colic and stomach upset to teething pain. The ingredients can vary but may include alcohol, ginger, bicarbonate, dill, fennel and chamomile. It dates back to the mid 1850s! In many countries both alcohol and sucralose have been removed. It is available over the counter and there is limited evidence that there is any value in its use. The question, however, is that of safety.

Gripe water can be considered as a botanical supplement and concerns about it include allergic reactions, among others. In 2011 a study on the use of botanicals and teas given to infants in the first year of life included gripe water. Parents chose to use gripe water without the input of a health care practitioner.

The study notes that some of these products contain active ingredients that have biological effects that could make them unsafe. Experts recommend that infants younger than six months be given ONLY breast milk or formula along with certain vitamins if needed – for example, vitamin D in babies who are exclusively breastfed.

Infants are growing quickly at this stage and consistent use of these botanicals or teas can reduce the level of nutrition and in some case lead to water intoxication.

As always, it is best to discuss this and over-the-counter product usage with your health care provider.


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2015.

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