Are Colic Drops Safe for Babies? Is There a Less Invasive Solution?
“Have you tried colic drops?” my concerned friend asked when she heard about baby N’s fussiness. At that point in time, I was feeling really helpless and was ready to jump on ANY solution that may potentially help baby N (and myself) sleep better. Intrigued, I quickly looked it up online.
What are Colic Drops?
I found that colic drops are commonly given to babies to help with gastrointestinal problems. The active ingredient in colic drops is simethicone. It works by breaking up the gas bubbles in a baby’s tummy, thus making him easier to “burp” or “toot”. According to the Mayo Clinic, simethicone is generally safe to use with babies from birth. In rare cases, loose stools may be a side effect.
On the surface, all looked fine and well. Yet, when I dug deeper, it set off several alarm bells. Simethicone by itself does not have flavour. As such, many manufacturers of infant colic drops resort to adding in additional ingredients to make it more palatable. And this is where many problems can arise.
The Truth About Colic Drops
#1: Colic Drops May Contain a Toxic Mix
Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in many food items. It is a naturally-occurring compound that is found in some foods like fruits, seafood and dairy products. While generally harmless on its own, sodium benzoate, when mixed with citric acid, can form benzene: a carcinogenic compound. I was horrified when I checked three popular infant colic drops brands and found citric acid together with sodium benzoate within their cocktail.
If we rail against alcohol in gripe water, we should equally protest against about having citric acid and sodium benzoate in the same solution.
#2: Colic Drops May Contain Sugar
Gas drops often contain sugar to appeal to babies. However, babies given sugary food can develop a sweet-tooth. When young children consume sugar regularly, they may start to reject the healthier but less sugary food that are good for them.
“Excessive sugar consumption, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, contributes to childhood obesity,” says paediatric dietitian Hanna Freeman, MS, RD, CSP, LD. This preference for sweeter food can thus lead them to be at a higher risk for obesity.
Furthermore, this sugar can also be bad for your baby’s teeth given that they are often not rinsed away. But even more insidious is the fact that babies consuming refined sugar are found to have lowered immunity, making them more prone to illnesses. The bottom line on sugar is this: limit babies’ intake on sugar. Period.
#3: Colic Drops May Contain Artificial Sweeteners
Some colic drops may also substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. These man-made sugars can bring about its own set of problems. A study published in Nature, have shown that certain artificial sweeteners may alter the makeup of important bacteria in the gut. This may lead to even more gas and stomach discomfort, thus exacerbating the problem.
Although the US Food and Drug Administration has recommendations on the ideal intake levels for sweeteners, it is still difficult for parents to know how much their child is consuming because manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the exact amount of sweetener they put in products. This means that babies taking colic drops may well be consuming way above what is good for them.
#4: Ingredients in Colic Drops May Cause Allergies
Allergies can be triggered by anything. As such, any of the above ingredients may also have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. Even though it is unlikely, some people do develop very bad, and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. With such dire consequences, we have to be very careful about what we allow into our baby’s body (especially when they are so little and vulnerable).
#5: Colic Drops can Lead to Power Struggles
Since the taste of colic drops may not be appealing for some infants, it can be very difficult to get babies to take to them. Parents may have to resort to prying their little mouths open to get the colic drops in.
However, constantly coercing your baby to eat something can put a strain on the parent-child relationship. Children who often have food forced upon them without consent, are likelier to associate hunger with anxiety, not pleasure. Research has also found that this strain on feeding relations has a correlation to parent's perception of a child’s fussiness. This means that the more parents force their child, the more parents perceive their child to be fussy.
As parents, the question to ask ourselves is - Is this even worth it?
Personally, I may get my baby to eat something that she doesn’t like, if it is something that is nutritious and essential for her growth - don’t judge :)
However, if it is a medication with potentially harmful effects, there is no way I’ll shove them down my baby’s throat.
#5: Do Colic Drops Even Work?
During my research, I read that a study conducted by the University of Sweden on 27 infants did not find simethicone helps with infant colic. Similar findings were found on a larger study of 83 infants by the University of Vermont! In both studies, infant colic improved regardless of whether they were given simethicone or not!
In fact, this whole debate about simethicone is based on the premise that simethicone even work with infant colic. These research findings cast serious doubts on this theory. Instead, the researchers postulates that the nil findings could either be due to the fact that: a) simethicone does not reduce intestinal gas; or b) infant colic is not caused by intestinal gas.
In short, given that colic drops are no better than simply giving your child water, why even try?
The Verdict on Colic Drops
Even though simethicone by itself is generally safe for your baby, you should still check out the ingredient list to see if there are any additives that may be detrimental to your baby’s health.
Most importantly, considering that there is little research to support the use of simethicone in treating infant colic AND the potentially harmful side effects, I will consider giving colic drops to my baby an absolute last resort.
But What Else Can I Do to Help My Baby’s Colic?
Before resorting to colic drops, I recommend parents to adopt other less invasive remedies first.
Personally, I’ve tried a wide range of remedies to sooth baby N and found that SnuggleTike, a warmable plush, works best. This revelation was made back when we were living in Japan, after seeking the help of a Japanese paediatrician. More on how SnuggleTike solved our baby's sleep issues.
While we discovered the magic that warmth has on baby N, we were frustrated with the lack of products which we feel comfortable to use on our baby. After speaking to like-minded parents, we found that this is a common pain point. Driven by passion to solve this issue, we’ve worked with a team of designers and craftsmen to create a safe and reliable warmable plush toy that we ourselves as parents will be happy to use.
Why SnuggleTike is THE Solution You are Looking for to Sooth Your Baby
#1: Safe and Reliable
Each SnuggleTike warmable plush comes with a removable heat pack for fire safety and hygiene during warming. The heat pack is durably-constructed to withstand reheating up to thousands of times. Placed within the plush, the heat pack is engineered to release heat evenly and gradually over an extended period of time.
As parents ourselves, we have designed the SnuggleTike warmable plush without any buttons nor beads for peace of mind. The zipper tab is cleverly-designed to double up as a tail while protecting against burns.
#2: Quality and Workmanship
Each SnuggleTike warmable plush is made with the softest materials to protect your baby’s delicate skin. Seams are double-stitched for improved durability. We have positioned the zipper for quick access during warming even at night.
#3: Other Unique Features
Each SnuggleTike warmable plush is carefully weighted to simulate the feel of a mother’s hand. This provides an added sense of security for your baby. We have designed our plush to be scent-free, so that you have flexibility to adopt a favourite scent. The heat pack can also be safely used as a gentle cold compress to sooth bruises and cool fevers.
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P.P.S. Have questions before you buy? I’ve tried to address as many as I can with our FAQs sections here. If you have other questions, do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org