Why Do Pediatricians Not Recommend Woodward’s Gripe? (Risks vs. Benefits Of Gripe Water In General)

Using gripe water for newborns or infants is discouraged mainly for health reasons. Introducing any liquid, including gripe water, to babies risks them of bacterial infections that can cause allergic reactions and intestinal irritation. The baby’s digestive tract is also developing and may not take too kindly to the contents of gripe water. Certain Woodward’s formulation may contain alcohol or sugar, which is why it is less recommended by pediatricians. The World Health Organization also encourages not to give babies other food or liquid in the first six months of life other than breastmilk.

If your baby has colic, it is still best to seek your pediatrician’s advice before administering gripe water to your baby.

Some doctors do prescribe gripe water but with consideration to its ingredients. There are ingredients in gripe water that can only worsen colic instead of alleviating it. 

What is gripe water?

Gripe water is a non-prescription liquid supplement given to babies to relieve gas and tummy problems. Its history dates back to the early 1850s, when it was first invented by the English pharmacist William Woodward.

The outbreak of “fen fever” and malaria in England inspired the pharmacist to create a formula for alleviating gastrointestinal problems in babies. 

The original formulation contains alcohol and is believed to be the reason why it was soothing to babies. However, alcohol can be toxic to babies.

Thus, its long way into modern medicine led to the creation alcohol-free and sugar-free gripe water. 

What are the ingredients in gripe water?

Gripe water primarily contains water, an herb or its combinations, and sometimes sodium bicarbonate.

The most popular herb used in gripe water is dill because of its carminative property.

Carminative herbs can expel gas and prevent its formation in the intestine. Different gripe water brands may have different herbs used and for different purposes.

The most common among them are:

  • Dill – Dill is a super effective herb for treating flatulence, indigestion, and colic. It can also bring relief to stomach cramps and spasms. 
  • Ginger – Ginger can prevent gas formation in the intestine, cure indigestion, and treat diarrhea and vomiting. 
  • Chamomile – The relaxant and sedative properties of chamomile give soothing relief from various pains. As a digestive aid, it relieves stomach cramps and enhances the function of the digestive system. Chamomile is also popular for its ability to induce sleep.
  • Fennel – Fennel has dietary fibers for promoting proper bowel movements. It also has a carminative and stomachic effect and was traditionally used for treating colic and jaundice in infants.
  • Lemon Balm – Lemon balm has a slightly sedative effect and is a very effective herb for gastrointestinal complaints. It can ease colic pain, dyspepsia, and acid reflux

Some gripe water like Woodward’s may also have sodium bicarbonate that breaks down excess gases in the intestine.

While sodium bicarbonate or baking soda can cure most digestive troubles, there are also some unwanted side effects.

It may cause a chemical reaction in your baby’s tummy that may worsen the gas or colic.

The overabundance of bicarbonate in the blood can also cause alkalosis that can make babies sick.

Do doctors recommend gripe water?

Back in the day, gripe water was a prescription liquid relief formula. Today, however, it is available over-the-counter.

A pediatrician is looking at a baby boy to check his health status

While some doctors may agree with using it on babies, some pediatricians do not. That’s because gripe water goes unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

It is considered a dietary supplement, and anyone can sell the product even without quality and safety testing.

Dietary supplements are not always harmful but can be debatable in terms of effectiveness.

In other words, gripe water may not harm your baby, but it may also not work either. Thus, always take caution in giving gripe water to your baby. 

It is wise to check with your doctor before giving your infant anything before six months of age. Babies younger than one month should not consume gripe water in any way.

Anything given to a baby other than breastmilk, especially early in life, can delay the establishment of breastfeeding.

The risks and benefits of gripe water

Sleepless colicky nights can be a nightmare for parents. And they would give everything for something that can offer immediate relief.

Before giving your child gripe water, here are the things that you need to know:

Benefits of gripe water

Risks of gripe water

  • Unregulated ingredients
  • Unproven effectiveness
  • It may contain ingredients that can cause allergy
  • Sodium bicarbonate can risk milk-alkali syndrome or alkalosis
  • Can hamper with breastfeeding

How to safely give gripe water to infants?

The first thing parents should remember when giving any medications to a baby is to call their doctors first. If the pediatrician agrees with using gripe water, he can recommend the best brand to buy. 

Gripe water should be alcohol-free and sugar-free. Others hypothesize that gripe water helps settle the baby because of its sweet taste. But while sugar is harmless in small amounts, it can be harmful to his developing teeth. 

Safely administer gripe water to your young one by following the doctor’s advice or by:

  • Checking the ingredients
  • Avoiding gripe water that contains alcohol or sugar
  • Following the correct dosage and administration


Is there an alternative to gripe water for colic?

Simethicone or gas drops are also effective OTC and prescription medicine for tummy problems and colic. Chamomile and ginger tea may also work in older children.

What should I give to my one-month-old baby who is crying nonstop?

Newborns in their early stages are biologically programmed to eat, sleep, and fuss a little. Babies who cry nonstop need to be checked by a doctor to identify the cause and provide a remedy. 

What is the best brand of gripe water?

More than the brand, the content of the gripe water should become a consideration. Check for the herbs and other added products it contains before buying.


Gripe water is a traditional relief that many moms trust for gas, tummy problems, and colic in babies.

While they are not necessarily unsafe, the products are unregulated and unchecked for effectiveness and potential risks.

If you want to give gripe water to your little one, go through the ingredients to make sure they are alcohol-free and sucrose-free. And always, the pediatrician’s advice is the best choice of all.

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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