Infant Gas Drops Review
Gas drops, colic drops, gripe water, probiotic supplements…. If you are the parent of a newborn, you have likely seen the crazy number of products out there that claim to fix your baby’s gas or colic problem. Baby gas relief is everywhere. These gas remedies are so ubiquitous that you might just think that gassy babies are a problem for past generations. Clearly, we have the solution now. Right?
It turns out that there are a wide variety of ways to treat gas, and none of them are exactly what you might be expecting. Gas stop medicines can be categorized into four groups:
- Gripe water
- Homeopathic Remedies
- Probiotic Supplements
We will look at each of these categories and evaluate the effectiveness of each. As much as we can, we’ll link to scientific studies to back up those claims (so you can see the data for yourself!). But we know that at the end of the day, what matters to most parents is knowing which brand works the best while also being safe. So here’s the short version:
Probiotics (such as Gerber Soothe Colic Drops and Mommy's Bliss Baby Probiotic Drops) are the only known gas drops that safely and effectively prevent infant gas problems. These drops do tend to work over time, but you shouldn’t expect an immediate change in your baby. Simethicone drops (such as Little Remedies Gas Relief Drops and Mylicon) do not prevent gas, but the sweet taste of the drops will likely soothe your baby, and adding the drops to a bottle of milk or formula can eliminate air bubbles. And simethicone is considered safe for the majority of babies. Gripe water and homeopathy offer nothing more than a sweet taste that might soothe your baby, and the safety of these products is disputed.
Keep in mind as you read this article that some of the products we reference contain over-the-counter medication about which you should consult with your baby’s pediatrician before giving to your child. And to be clear, we are not doctors, just fellow parents.
Simethicone is sold under a variety of brand names, including:
- Little Remedies Gas Relief Drops
- Pediacare Gas Relief Drops
- Mylicon Infants’ Gas Relief Drops
- Equate - ‘Infants’ Gas Relief Drops
It is also available for adults, but it’s usually called Gas-X or Maalox Anti-Gas when simethicone is sold as a grown-up medicine. And every once in a while, you see simethicone referred to as "Tumsup Drops". But in the end, the brand names really don't matter that much. Dosage amounts and artificial flavors aside, all of the above products are virtually identical. So what is this stuff?
Simethicone is an anti-foaming agent. If you want to see this anti-foaming action for yourself, just add a small dosage to a bubbly baby bottle of milk. If you shake the bottle after adding the simethicone, you’ll see the bubbles disappear.
The medication is supposed to eliminate gas bubbles by doing some anti-foaming action in the baby’s stomach. Supposedly, it gathers all of your baby’s little gas bubbles into one big bubble of flatulence that is easier to pass. And once that single bubble is passed, your baby is gas free and happy!
And if you look at the product reviews, people love this stuff. Happy customers state that their children go from screaming to calm in seconds. Crying children are soothed instantly. This is apparently the miracle elixir.
And we were no exception. When our daughter turned three weeks old, she became entirely too gassy. She cried constantly. So we got some simethicone gas drops to help her, and the drops worked wonderfully. We were (and still are) happy customers.
But here’s the strange part: the anti-foaming agent doesn’t actually seem to get rid of infant gas. No, you didn’t read that wrong. The drops likely don’t relieve infants of gas. In a double blind study (the best kind of study!), simethicone performed no better than a similar-tasting placebo in treating colicy, gassy babies. In fact, 37% of babies preferred the placebo over the actual medicine.
So what is going on here? How is a placebo treating gas problems at all, let alone as well as the miracle gas elixir? Well, as it turns out, simethicone tastes sweet. And that’s probably what is calming the babies.
It has been known for a while that tasting something sweet can calm down infants. Sugar water is often used during infant vaccines because it helps with pain management. And it really works. Infants cry less when given something sweet.
This theory might explain why simethicone helps with infant discomfort completely unrelated to gas. A spoonful of sugar doesn’t just help the medicine go down, the sweet taste is the entire point of the medicine.
With this information in mind, consider that many infant gas drops are made even sweeter. So many have a “berry flavor” added to the already sweet medicine. This is probably why the drops are so effective. After tasting that sweetness, your baby forgets all about the gas troubles. And that might just be enough of a reason for you to buy these drops, since there are exactly zero side effects. (We still do!)
The anti-foaming agent does work in bottles (if not tummies). So if you bottle-feed, you might consider adding these drops to your baby bottles to eliminate gas bubbles. After all, consuming gas bubbles does actually cause infant gas. So using simethicone in bottles might prevent a little bit of gas. And our daughter loves her milk when it’s sweetened up a bit with berry flavor.
Gripe water is a product that some people claim relieves gas discomfort, hiccups, teething pain, and other ailments. Others have concerns about the product, wondering if it works at all, if it's actually safe for newborns, or what the negatives might be. So let’s take a closer look!
There are multiple gripe water brands. Some of the more popular are:
- Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water
- Wellements Organic Gripe Water
- Little Remedies Gripe Water
Gripe water is made from sodium bicarbonate (more commonly known as baking soda) and a variety of herbs like fennel, ginger, licorice, or dill. The reality though is that exact formulations differ; there is no standard way to make gripe water. The reason for this is that the original gripe water recipe called for alcohol and sugar, and we now know that neither of these should be regularly given to infants.
The original purpose of gripe water was to treat malaria, but doctors soon realized that the medicine calmed screaming, gassy infants. So the medicine was re-branded as a solution to infant gas. And it spread like crazy; gripe water was an international phenomenon.
But the evidence suggests that the herbs are not truly what treats infant gas distress. Like simethicone, babies just seem to like the taste of gripe water. So infants often do calm down after receiving some gripe water, but not because the herbs actually alleviate any gas pain. It's all a matter of taste.
Unfortunately gripe water is not necessarily completely harmless. Since most formulations contain baking soda, taking too much gripe water can lead to alkalosis and milk alkali syndrome. To be clear, this probably will not happen to your child (as you likely will not go crazy with the gripe water). But you should be aware that gripe water is not entirely without danger.
If you do choose to use gripe water, be sure to avoid any formulations that contain either alcohol or sugar (also known as sucrose), as these can actually harm your baby.
Homeopathic Gas Drops
The most popular brand of homeopathic gas drops is likely Hyland's Baby Gas Drops.
Homeopathy is a bit strange. It’s an alternative medicine system (in other words, not something your doctor would likely approve of) that claims that the more diluted a substance is, the more potent it is. It also claims that “like cures like,” which means that some of the substance that causes a symptom can cure that symptom. In other words, you take a tiny amount of medicine (which might be the very thing thought to cause your ailment) and dilute it. And then you have a homeopathic cure.
But does it actually work? Probably not.
There has been a lot of research on homeopathy because of its popularity. And it seem that homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebos. In fact, homeopathic infant gas drops can actually be dangerous.
Despite these problems, many parents claim that the medications work wonders with their newborns. But like the simethicone and the gripe water, this is probably just because the drops taste good (natural berry flavor!).
We cannot recommend that you use homeopathic medicine in any sort, including gas drops.
Probiotic Gas Drops
The most popular brand of probiotic drops is likely Mommy's Bliss Baby Probiotic Drops, but Gerber Soothe Colic Drops are also on the market.
Probiotics are bacteria that live in your (and your baby’s) gut. Bacteria is usually thought of as bad, but we actually need some “good” bacteria to survive. Probiotics are a form of good bacteria that help us with digestion. And one strain in particular, lactobacillus, is given to infants to help with gas.
Lactobacillus has made a bit of a buzz in the medical world because of its potential to help with infant gas. So many medicines are thought to treat infant gas, but don’t really deliver (see literally everything in the above three sections). So finding a real solution here is pretty exciting, and it looks like lactobacillus could be that solution.
Parents should note though that this is not an instant cure. Your infant will likely become less gassy after receiving the treatment, but you probably won’t see the magic turn-around that the other (sweeter, but less-effective) gas drops provide. But the probiotics do offer a long-term solution to gassiness in your infant, and for that reason, we give the drops a thumbs up.
Mommy's Bliss Baby Probiotic Drops can be found here.