If your baby is crying inconsolably, you may be wondering whether colic or gas could be the culprit. Both conditions cause otherwise healthy babies to cry incessantly, leaving many parents stressed out and scratching their heads about how to help their little one. Although there is no known cause for colic – and, thus, no tried and true remedy for all babies – parents often find success with two common remedies. Gripe water and gas drops are both commonly used by parents to treat their baby’s tummy ailments. But, is one preferred over the other? Let’s take a closer look at gripe water vs gas drops.
Gripe Water Basics
Gripe water is a type of over the counter alternative medicine. It is made of water and a mixture of herbs, which can vary based upon the manufacturer. Most commonly, however, gripe water contains dill seed oil and sodium bicarbonate. Dill seed is known to have a soothing effect on the stomach, and sodium bicarbonate is added to off-set stomach acid. Gripe water is typically alcohol-free and sugar-free, and its ingredients are designed to soothe a baby’s upset tummy.
Pros of Gripe Water vs Gas Drops
Since gripe water contains herbs known to have a warming and soothing effect, it can be effective in treating both gassy babies and colicky babies. In fact, many parents swear by it. It is easily accessible over the counter, is easy to use, and isn’t expensive.
As with many over the counter medications, too much gripe water can cause side effects. If a baby gets too much sodium bicarbonate, it can cause a condition called alkalosis. In this dangerous scenario, the blood loses its natural acidity and becomes base instead, causing symptoms such as vomiting, tremors, confusion, and numbness in the face, hands, and feet.
When stored improperly, gripe water can also grow bacteria and fungi. To avoid this, be sure to always store your bottle in a cool, dry location and do not use it once it is past the manufacturer’s expiration date.
Gas Drops Basics
This over the counter liquid medicine contains the active ingredient simethicone. It breaks up large gas bubbles in the baby’s digestive system, creating smaller gas bubbles that are more easily passed instead. Gas drops can be dispensed directly into the baby’s mouth, or they can be mixed with formula or expressed breast milk.
Pros of Gas Drops vs Gripe Water
The American Academy of Pediatrics has labeled gas drops as safe even for newborn babies, and adverse side effects are very rare. They are proven effective in helping babies relieve their gas pains, and they can be used multiple times daily for recurrent gassiness in infants.
Since there is no proven cause of colic, gas drops may not impact a baby’s crying. Additionally, they are unsafe for use in babies who are also taking thyroid medications, as they may cause a harmful drug interaction.
Deciding Which is Better for Your Baby: Gripe Water vs Gas Drops
Parents who are faced with a crying baby are usually willing to try anything but wonder where to start. If you think your baby may have gas, give gas drops a try. Symptoms of gas in infants include a firm belly, drawing the legs up toward the abdomen repeatedly, and crying after feedings. If you’re observing these behaviors in your child, gas drops are probably the best place to start. However, things are not nearly as clear-cut with a colicky baby.
Since colic remains a bit of a medical mystery with no proven cause, there is also no proven remedy. Neither gripe water nor gas drops can be said to be effective, and colicky babies may exhibit a wide variety of symptoms. Sometimes, a colicky baby will mimic a gassy baby, pulling their legs up toward their abdomen as described above. In this case, gas drops may help to relieve some of a colicky baby’s discomfort.
However, many colicky babies respond better to soothing techniques like walking, swaying, back rubs, and singing. If your child seems to respond a bit to these or other types of soothing techniques when crying, gas is probably not the issue. Gripe water and its calming ingredients may be of more use for a crying baby in this scenario.
A Note About Medical Attention
While all babies cry and about twenty percent show signs of colic, you may not always be able to treat your baby’s discomfort on your own. Here are some things to watch for if you have a baby who cries incessantly:
- A blue tint to the lips, which indicates baby is not getting enough oxygen
- Crying that occurs after a fall or other injury and sounds different than your baby’s usual cry
- Blood in baby’s stool, or a change in bowel movement habits
- A temperature greater than 100.4 F (38 C)
- Crying that is getting worse over time (louder, for longer periods)
- If you feel helpless or overwhelmed while caring for your crying baby
In instances of any of the above symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention. Sometimes, it may be that your baby is suffering from a food allergy, especially if your child is breastfed. A pediatrician can help you determine whether your child’s crying is normal or cause for concern.
Trusting Your Gut
As with many aspects of parenting, you’ll have friends and acquaintances ready and willing to tell you what worked best for their crying baby. Inevitably, some will swear gripe water is the answer while others sing the praises of gas drops. Keep in mind that every baby is different, and you know your child best. Trust your gut and try the remedy that makes the most sense to you first. You can always try the other if you don’t achieve the results you hoped for.
As you work to soothe your crying little one, do not despair. While it can be very trying at the moment, remind yourself that it won’t last forever. Even the most colicky babies tend to grow out of it around 3-4 months, but we hope gripe water or gas drops may provide just the remedy you need in the meantime.
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