Baby blues

The experts answer about time-tested remedies and maneuvering your infant in a modern world.

baby drinking from bottle 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
baby drinking from bottle 521
(photo credit: Reuters)

My three-month-old son has been having bouts of colic, but only at night. He was crying non-stop for four hours one night. We think it was because of gas in his stomach. We gave him paracetamol drops for the pain, but it took an hour for it to work. Our pediatrician said not to give paracetamol except for fever. At one pharmacy, we were advised to buy something that sounded like “Grape Water,” but we wanted first to consult with an expert. What is Grape Water, and does it help against colic? If not, is there anything else to do? I.S., Jerusalem Veteran pharmacist and pharmacological consultant Howard Rice answers: A pharmacist who calls such a product “Grape Water” and not the correct name, “Gripe Water” is ignorant, illiterate or not-professional or all three. Giving “grape water” to an infant would cause diarrhea.

It was given the name “Gripe Water” because it refers to the “treatment” of gripe, which is severe stomach pains.
It is true that for many years many pharmacists prepared Gripe Water. The formulas can vary from drops containing one or more of the following: mint, caraway, dill, anise oil and bicarbonate. All of them were used to calm and warm the stomach and prevent contractions, together with a “de-frothicant” (to reduce frothing) such as simethicone, to name but a few.
There is some discussion on the use of fennel and caraway for colic, but the jury is still out on that. The fact is it has been used for almost 200 years without great concern. It should be prepared preferably in glycerin to avoid bacteria from multiplying in the bottle before use.
However, the most important thing is not the medicine but how we hold the baby. Because of the anatomy of a newborn baby’s stomach, we must always hold him so that his right hand is facing down. This is because his stomach is horizontal and not at an angle as with adults or older children. When an older child (or adult) swallows air – which often occurs if milk were sucked, particularly from a bottle rather than the breast – the air accumulates in the stomach and enters the intestine. The resulting flatulence causes considerable pain.
This can be avoided by holding the baby on the left arm, with his right arm facing down. If you are breast feeding and he is to be moved to the other breast, he should be moved “as is” to the other side without turning him around. This way he will not add more bubbles of the mother’s milk and air in his stomach, and when winded, again on the shoulder with his right arm facing down, he will quickly and effectively bring up the air, which will not be in an air lock in the stomach. A baby with a lot of gas in his stomach, when twisted and turned, eventually brings it all up with the air and coagulated milk.
I have a one-month-old baby boy and find that accessibility of baby carriages is not optimal in many places. So I wanted to buy a cloth baby carrier in which the baby “sits” in front of me. But when I went to a shop that specializes in such things, I was told that a cheaper baby carrier (around NIS 200 to NIS 300) in which an infant is supported between the legs, which dangle down, is bad for the baby’s back. The person in the store said it’s much better for a newborn baby to be curled up in the fetal position and not “sitting” – and these cost NIS 500 to NIS 700! Also, is it better for the baby to be behind me, on my back, or on my front? I don’t feel confident when he’s on my back, as I can’t see him, and it would seem harder to get him in and out of it. What does an expert say? B.A., Tel Aviv Prof. Arthur Eidelman, a veteran pediatrician and neonatologist and retired head of pediatrics at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, comments: As usual, there is no definitive study to answer all these questions. Consensus is that facing the front (not on your back or riding on the hip) is best for infants under four months. There are no data to support any concern regarding the back or spine. The only concern is to have proper support of the head, and – most importantly when using a baby carrier – not to obstruct the infant’s face or nose or have him with chin on chest. The breathing and airway must be kept open.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to [email protected], giving your initials, age and place of residence.