Infant stomach upset can be a common childhood issue yet is difficult for parents to observe. When infants experience a more severe form of stomach upset, known as acid reflux, medications adults take may be too strong for baby's body. In this instance, a treatment known as gripe water may help to soothe the gastrointestinal tract.
Gripe water is a treatment that originally gained popularity in Europe. While formulations can vary by manufacturer, gripe water typically contains sterile water and a mixture of herbs designed to soothe the gastrointestinal tract. Examples of such herbs include peppermint, chamomile, fennel and/or ginger. Sodium bicarbonate also may be included in gripe water, which helps to reduce stomach acid that causes reflux, according to Gripe Water Guide. Gripe water can serve as an alternative to an herbal tea to relieve stomach cramping.
Gripe water is chiefly utilized in the treatment of infant colic, a condition where an infant cries frequently due to an upset stomach from acid-reflux related cramping and pain. Because baby’s digestive tract is much smaller and less developed than an adult's, she is more prone to acid reflux — where food comes up from the stomach to the esophagus — following feedings. While gripe water is generally considered a remedy for infants, adults can utilize gripe water for the treatment of bowel irregularity and reflux.
Diagnosing acid reflux can be difficult in babies. While two-thirds of babies spit up, acid reflux occurs in a much smaller percentage, according to the "Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics." In addition to spitting up, other indications your baby experiences acid reflux include weight loss, frequent crying, problems sleeping and decreased appetite. See your child’s physician if your baby is experiencing these symptoms and ask if gripe water could serve as an appropriate treatment.
While medications can be prescribed for acid reflux, these treatments may put babies at increased risk for other conditions such as intestinal and respiratory conditions, according to MayoClinic.com. For this reason, gripe water serves as an alternative remedy to medications that treat reflux, yet can cause complicating side effects.
Gripe water can be given to babies on its own -- be sure to read all instructions on a gripe water package carefully before administering. However, some infants may refuse gripe water, particularly when their stomach is upset from reflux. Mix a small amount of gripe water with formula to prevent the onset of reflux if your baby is prone to reflux symptoms. If you are breastfeeding, spoon a small amount into your baby’s mouth.