Gripe Water: Ingredients & side effects

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Author: Gauri Kshirsagar

Many parents of newborns ask me if ‘Grip water’ should be given to new born babies, as it is usually recommended by family and friends. WHO recommends exclusive breast feeding to babies till the age of 6 months. The beliefs and customs of people have a greater impact on the child rearing practices pushing the aforementioned guidelines to the back seat. One such irrational practice is the use of gripe water for infants on a routine basis and for colic. Anything (including gripe water) other than breast milk administered to a baby during the first six months may increase the risk of introducing bacteria, causing allergies and irritating the baby’s intestines. Gripe water just like any other prelacteal given soon after birth may cause delay in establishment of breastfeeding and reduce breast milk supply.

Having said that I do believe infantile colic can be managed by other safer methods than gripe water. I have listed the following FAQs on gripe water with references on research articles and studies as to why gripe water should not be given to babies.

What is infantile colic?

Baby colic (also known as infantile colic) is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. For more details on infantile colic read my post: Infantile Colic : FAQs and how to manage it

What is Grip water?

Gripe water is an over-the-counter liquid supplement of sodium bicarbonate and herbs (such as fennel, ginger, chamomile, cardamom, licorice, cinnamon, clove, dill, lemon balm or peppermint, depending on the formula). In addition to soothing colic, it’s marketed as a remedy for teething pain, hiccups and flatulence, among other ailments. It is available under many brand names, of which woodward’s gripe water is the most oldest and well known one.

What is Woodword’s Grip water?

William Woodword born and brought up in Stamford, formulated gripe water in 1851.  Woodward borrowed the formula, a combination of dill seed oil, sodium bicarbonate and alcohol, among other substances from physicians who were using solution in the 1840s to treat babies with “fen fever,” a form of malarial illness. It is serendipitous that a treatment Woodward designed for malaria is today a popular treatment for colic with an enormous commercial value. For the detailed history of Woodword’s gripe water read the following article:The gripe water story

How does gripe water work? Why shouldn’t it be given to babies?

  1. It has been hypothesized that the alcohol content of gripe water provides a soothing effect[1]. In some of the other commercial gripe waters, the alcohol content has been as high as 9% making even adults to get addicted.[2] Though previously gripe water had alcohol in its composition, this is no longer a common constituent.
  2. A net search revealed that most brands of gripe water in Indian market are alcohol free but contain sodium bicarbonate, varying combinations of herbs or dill oil . Sodium bicarbonate in gripe water has no role as hyperacidity is not a cause for colic. Moreover, if given continuously and in large doses, it may cause alkalosis and milk alkali syndrome.
  3. One cannot presume that all herbal preparations are safe and free from side effects.
  4. The other possibility of the soothing effect of gripe water could be due to its sweet taste. The high sugar content of gripe water can harm the erupting teeth.[3]
  5. Pseudomonas aeruginosa septic shock secondary to “gripe water” ingestion has been reported in a nine-month-old girl.[4]
  6. In 2007, FDA confirmed the presence of cryptosporidium after investigating the illness of a six-week-old infant in Minnesota who consumed Baby’s Bliss Gripe Water, apple flavor and advised consumers to throw away bottles of the product.[5]
[1] Blumenthal I. The gripe water story. J R Soc Med. 2000;93:172–4. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
[2] Levin S. Gripe water. S Afr Med J. 1968;42:753–7. [PubMed]
[3] Blumenthal I, Fenton D. A gripe about gripe water. Arch Dis Child. 1989;64:306–7.
[4] Sas D, Enrione MA, Schwartz RH. Pseudomonas aeruginosa septic shock secondary to “gripewater” ingestion. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23:176–7. [PubMed]
[5] FDA news release: FDA Warns Consumers about the Risk of Cryptosporidium Illness from Baby’s Bliss Gripe Water. [Last updated on 2007 Sep 20; cited on 2011 Nov 10]. Available from:

*Thanks a lot for visiting my blog. Please do ‘★ LIKE’ the post if you found it to be useful.Your comments, suggestions, criticism and all opinions are very much appreciated. Please do write your queries in the Reply/comments section and I will try to get back to you asap.

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