If your baby has ever experienced tummy troubles, you’ll know the feeling of desperately looking for a remedy to help alleviate their discomfort. Gripe water is the go-to for some parents when their baby or toddler is suffering from colic or other gastrointestinal problems, but you might be wondering what gripe water is.
It's a solution that was invented in the 19th century and has been soothing little ones ever since. But what's it made of, how much should you give them - and does it really work?
We've done the research for you, so you can help your baby feel better…
What is gripe water?
Gripe water is a liquid solution available over the counter. It's made from sodium bicarbonate and herbs. The exact ingredients in gripe water tend to vary from country to country, but the main active components have remained the same through the years.
Nutritional therapist Julie Clark, from spring-nutrition.co.uk, says that all gripe water products contain sodium bicarbonate, also labeled as sodium hydrogen carbonate.
"There are other ingredients added, most commonly dill oil in the original gripe water, but other products can also contain ginger and or fennel,” she says.
"You may also get some sweeteners or glucose depending on the brand. The original gripe water contained sodium hydrogen carbonate, dill oil, and alcohol.”
As well as easing pain caused by digestive problems, gripe water can also act as a teething remedy, get rid of baby hiccups and ease colic. It may also help release wind when trying to burp your baby.
Does gripe water work?
Many mums go for gripe water as a remedy for common newborn tummy troubles due to the effect of its ingredients.
According to the NHS, gripe water (which contains dill seed oil) works by breaking down trapped gas bubbles, but they don't recommend it as a remedy for colic.
"Gripe water has two active ingredients: sodium hydrogen carbonate which is an antacid, and the dill seed oil, which is used to reduce wind in the baby," says Dr. Ellie Cannon, author of ‘Keep Calm: The New Mum's Manual: Trust Yourself and Enjoy Your Baby’.
"Sodium bicarbonate helps to reduce stomach acid and is often used as a natural anti-acid," says Clark.
"Other ingredients added include herbs such as dill, fennel and ginger. These are known to assist digestion and can be calming on the tummy."
However, the NHS do say the evidence to back gripe water is questionable. 'Like simethicone, there's not much evidence that it works for colic.'
Both Dr. Ellie and Julie are in agreement with the NHS that there’s not really any scientific evidence to prove that gripe works - but despite the lack of physical evidence, many parents swear by the remedy.
"There is very little scientific evidence to confirm that gripe water works," says Julie.
"Overall, though, I know many mums swear by it and I’m not aware of any serious problems."
Are there any side effects to using it?
Clark says there could be a few side effects in unusual circumstances.
"The side effects to gripe water – although these do seem rare – can include an allergic reaction to ingredients, especially the added herbs, or a lowering of stomach acid, which is not a good thing in the long term as the stomach provides an important role in immunity and the correct breakdown of foods,' she says.
"I think the biggest issue with these types of ‘products’ is that it is a foreign substance being introduced to a very young baby – often just a few weeks old."
Is gripe water safe for newborns?
While gripe water is suitable for babies, Dr. Ellie does not recommend giving it to newborns, saying, "it’s only for use in babies who are a month or older."
According to Dr. Ellie, it’s important to read the label before giving gripe water to your baby, as there could be side effects if you give too much, so she advises to carefully follow the exact dosing on the bottle.
We'd also recommend you speak to your doctor for their recommendations of gripe water and to make sure the one you choose is suitable for your baby. It should also never be given in large quantities or used as a substitute for anything in their diet.
How to give gripe water to your baby
Gripe water can be administered to your baby in a variety of ways.
While it’s typically given through an oral syringe or dropper, you can also mix gripe water with breastmilk or formula before feeding.
Firstly, you'll want to make sure you've read all the ingredients and instructions carefully. You should also double-check the ingredients to make sure it's alcohol-free, sucrose-free and also that it doesn't contain carbo vegetabilis (this can cause constipation). You'll also want to double-check you're getting the dose right for your little one too.
Alternatives to gripe water
If you're having no luck with gripe water or if it's something you'd rather avoid, there are some other methods you can try to help your baby.
Give your baby a massage
Movements like bicycle legs can really help babies relieve gas. This works similarly to baby tummy time, as this pressure on the tummy can help relieve wind too. You can even use relaxing baby massage oils to calm them even more.
Try some tummy time
Some pressure on baby's tummy can help provide some relief to them. Not only does this help strengthen their neck muscles, but it's also very fun for baby and helps you bond. Remember, tummy time should only be done when baby is awake and alert, baby should always sleep on their back.
If your little one is currently a bit too small for tummy time on the floor, you can try adding some pressure to their tiny tummy by placing your hand on baby's tummy while you're winding them or lying baby down on your lap or in their bed or cot and giving them a little tummy rub.
Check their formula
If your baby is on formula, try changing their formula to see if that could be causing any problems to their sensitive tummy. You may want to try a ready-to-feed formula instead of a powder mix, as all the shaking and stirring can generate bubbles, making your already gassy baby much more gassier and uncomfortable.
If you're not sure what to switch to, speak with your health visitor or doctor for their recommendations.
Alter your feeding technique
When feeding your baby, you should make sure the nipple of the bottle is completely full with milk. This will help eliminate any unwanted air bubbles. You might also want to change the kind of bottle you're using too if this doesn't help.
Swaddle your baby
Swaddling can have a real comforting effect on baby. If tummy troubles have got them all upset and uncomfortable, swaddling your baby in a nice warm blanket can bring them some real comfort. Once you've successfully swaddled your baby, try gently rocking them while holding them in your arms.
Consider changing your diet
If you're a breastfeeding mama, you may want to consider changing your diet to remove foods that can commonly cause gas as. amore natural alternative to gripe water. These include dairy, caffeine and soy. Some mums also swear by drinking chamomile tea to help their baby's digestive problems. If you're unsure, always speak to your doctor.
Try soothing them with sound
Babies can react well to sound, so try singing them a lullaby to calm them down or even hum the tune if you don't feel like singing. Whispering a gentle shh sound in their ear can also help.
If you're trying to get baby off to sleep, try awhite noise machine or if you don't have one, do some vacuum cleaning, hair drying or put a fan on (if the weather is hot).
Other medication and remedies
There are some other oral remedies to gripe water that you may want to try.
Simethicone – it is a type of medicine called antiflatulent which is used to treat wind. It can be bought at pharmacies and it's taken in the form of tablets, capsules, drops and a liquid that you swallow.
Dicycloverine – This is an antispasmodic medicine which is used to relieve stomach cramps. It helps to ease bloating and the spasm-type pain that can be associated with irritable bowel syndrome, helping your stomach to relax.
Peppermint oil – Another treatment for IBS and nausea, this is a natural oil that helps relax the stomach.
Colief infant drops – These drops can ease the symptoms of colic and are suitable for use from birth onwards, whether an infant is breastfed or formula-fed and they’re even suitable for premature babies to help break down the natural sugars in milk (lactose).
Activated charcoal – this can sometimes ease trapped wind. This is ideal for children ages 1-12.
Sodium bicarbonate – This reduces and neutralises stomach acid to help with heartburn, indigestion and upset stomachs.
Where can I buy Gripe Water?
We have compiled a selection of gripe water remedies that we recommend here:
This oral solution is both alcohol and sugar-free making it suitable for babies. This one is
Containing only all natural products, this vegan formula is powered by organic fennel and ginger.
Formulated by doctors, this solution contains ginger, dill, fennel, and pure New Zealand kiwifruit