Can Gripe Water Help Soothe Your Baby?

Having a baby is a huge adjustment for everyone involved, and figuring out a baby's needs can be challenging. It isn't always easy to determine why a baby is crying and how to help them soothe. This gets particularly complicated for the parents of a colicky baby, a condition marked by excessive and recurring bouts of crying in the first few months of life, as per the Mayo Clinic. The crying often appears for no reason and may seem to communicate that the baby is in pain. A baby may also hold their body rigidly or turn red in the face. These episodes typically take place at the same time every day as well.

While the exact cause of colic is unknown, doctors point to a few different potential causes, as explained by Johns Hopkins Medicine. One of the main theories is simply that the baby is having a hard time adapting to the world outside the womb. If you combine this with an underdeveloped nervous system and a lack of self-soothing capabilities, the discomfort and agitation are understandable reactions. Another popular theory is that colic is caused by digestion sensitivities and gas due to the immaturity of the digestive tract and potential intolerances.

Just like there isn't one specific cause of colic, there isn't one treatment that will make it go away. However, there are tried and true tricks to helping a baby soothe. One common recommendation is to use gripe water, but does it work?

Although it's commonly used, keep some factors in mind

If your baby is crying and you've ruled out any potential unmet needs as the cause, such as hunger, tiredness, or a dirty diaper, it may be time to turn to alternative methods to soothe your upset little one. Enter gripe water, a natural herbal product that is sold to exhausted parents to alleviate a variety of ailments, including digestive troubles, colic, hiccups, and more, as per What to Expect. Most formulas contain a mixture of herbs, namely chamomile, ginger, and fennel, as well as sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, and are designed to break up gas bubbles and alleviate stomach discomfort.

There is no reliable evidence that gripe water is an effective remedy for colic and babies with digestive distress (via Forbes Health). Therefore, it's important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use, points out Healthline. Additionally, not all gripe waters are created equally. Some contain alcohol and artificial flavors and colors, which aren't appropriate for babies. Products containing peppermint can also have the opposite intended effect on a baby with digestive issues and end up worsening the problem. Additionally, gripe water is not recommended for newborn babies and should only be given after the first month of life.

Pediatrician Jennifer Chen laid down the bottom line on gripe water in an interview with Forbes Health: "Giving your baby gripe water probably won't hurt, but it likely won't help much, either."