Is gripe water safe to use for my baby?

Dr Philippa Kaye, practising GP and an expert in family health, explains how gripe water can ease the symptoms of colic and how best to use it

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Babies can be given gripe water up to 6 times in a 24-hour period to help relieve trapped wind. 

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Is it safe for newborns?

Check the instructions when you buy but generally, no – you shouldn’t give gripe water to a baby less than a month old.

You should also not use it on your child if he’s

  • allergic to any of the ingredients
  • suffers from kidney problems.

What about side effects?

It doesn’t have any known side effects, but if your baby gets any unusual symptoms while taking it, take him to see your GP as soon as possible.

Please note: Whichever brand of gripe water you buy, you have to dispose of the bottle and any remaining contents 14 days after opening it.

What exactly is gripe water?

Discovered by English pharmacist William Woodward in the 1850s while treating fen fever, the original mix of alcohol, dill, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and water, was adopted by physicians to soothe fretful babies.

Today it comprises mainly of bicarbonate of soda and dill seed oil, and works by breaking down trapped air bubbles that cause wind, a common symptom associated with colic.

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How do I give it to my baby?

The best time to give your baby gripe water is during, or just after a feed, as this is the time his digestive system will start breaking down the large enzymes in milk, which can sometimes cause a spasm of the gut.

Just fill the dropper up with the recommended dose (as mentioned on the packet), and let him suck it out, squeeze it into his mouth, or put it into his feed.

How do I know which brand to buy?

Although Woodwards Gripe Water is the original medicine that helped relieve the discomfort associated with colic, there are various other over-the-counter remedies. Brands, such as DentinoxInfacol and Colief, have developed their own formulas using slightly different ingredients, so finding the one that works for your baby may be a case of trial and error.

What our expert says…

“Gripe water is one of the oldest commercially available remedies for colic, first being produced for sale in 1851. Its original formula contained sugar and alcohol, but today’s mix is completely safe, comprising of dill seed oil and sodium bicarbonate,” says Dr Philippa Kaye.

“The exact reasons for colic are unknown, but it’s thought to be related to trapped wind and indigestion. The active ingredients in gripe water help combat it by neutralising excess acid in the stomach and breaking down trapped air bubbles.

“It comes in a liquid form which you can give to your baby, via a dropper, up to six times a day. Whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, you simply fill the dropper with the recommended dose and drop it into his mouth, or let him suck it out.”

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What do our mums think about gripe water?

There’s plenty of chat on our forum about gripe water, and some great tips from our mums.

“I’ve used gripe water with my children since they were 4 weeks old and never had a problem with it. My fourth child didn’t like the taste, so I used to put it into his milk, says Mummy X5.

Sunnymum22 found it useful to dip her baby’s dummy in it to help him settle down, and Suzanne3 says she was counting down the days until she could give it to her son.

She found it really helped ease his colic but now, she says, “I only use it when I think he’s suffering with severe trapped wind.”

JoJoakerman found that “Infacol started working for my baby straight away. After a couple of uses I saw an instant improvement as she was burping easier and appeared a lot calmer.”

And Cupcakemummy has a top tip: “I find Infacol and Dentinox are more preventative, but Woodward’s Gripe Water is definitely the best for getting rid of wind.”

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