Stockpiling Gripe Water may not curb the colic

SO, shops have run out of Woodward’s Gripe Water. Frazzled parents, driven to despair by colicky babies, are at their wit’s end and bottles usually on sale in Boots for less than £2.50 are being sold on Ebay for a tenner.

Yet the burpy liquid has stopped being manufactured because it’s being investigated by the Government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

You can usually buy the booze-less version in any pharmacy where it is given in a tiny amount to babies over one month old who are suffering from colic, or trapped wind. Other brands are available, or you can even make your own.

If you put your ear to the tummy of a colicky baby – between the ear-drum-piercing, high-pitched screams – you can hear bubbles.

The blurb claims that the mixture of bicarb of soda and dill oil disperses the bubbles, relieving the discomfort and usually producing a big burp.

However, there seems to be manufacturing and licensing issues with the remedy, which was made by SSL International before being bought out by Reckitt Benckiser, who have halted its manufacture – for now.

Lots of parents-of-a-certain-age will recall Woodward’s Gripe Water from years ago, when it still had alcohol in it. It probably didn’t have any E Number preservatives in it then because, let’s face it, alcohol doesn’t go off.

More recently the alcohol was taken out, so today’s recipe contains a basic mix of Sodium bicarb (hence the burp), dill seed oil and E215, E217 and E219.

We tried Woodward’s when our eldest, now 14, was wreaking havoc on our lives as a new baby. We were still baffled by the tiny infant who screamed his head off after just about every feed. He’d pull his knees up to his chest and clench his tiny fists, and we just didn’t know how to help him. We’d have tried anything.

Sleep-deprivation due to his crying had turned us into neurotic zombies. Bloke would walk him around for hours, baby Jed lying over hid shoulder, doing the New Parent shuffle, swaying side-to-side to the same CD, the only one that seemed to calm baby down (to this day neither of us can listen to Sacred Spirit Vol.1: Chants & Dances of the Native Americans . . .)

We tried Woodward’s Gripe Water, and once we’d worked out how to get a 5ml spoon of a very runny, sticky liquid into a squirming baby’s mouth without getting it all over ourselves, up the baby’s nose, or all over the carpet, it would usually elicit a burp within a minute or so. (Ask your pharmacy for a medicine syringe, it’s far easier).

The gripe water lulled us, temporarily; into thinking we’d solved it. But the wailing would inevitably start again.

So we tried Infacol, another colic remedy, which you are meant to give BEFORE a feed. To be honest, we don’t think that worked either, though many of our friends will testify both worked on their own colicky babies.

With the benefit of hindsight, and knowing now we didn’t have any problems with our subsequent three, I wonder whether Jed actually had colic at all.

I just don’t think we knew how to ‘wind’ a baby properly. (And that’s not to say colic doesn’t exist, before a barrage of angry emails drops into my inbox).

When you have a new tiny baby, you are terrified to handle him or her with anything except metaphorical kid gloves. But to get bubbles out of a baby’s tummy, or break them up small enough not to cause discomfort, you have to rub, and rub, and pat, and rub, for what seems like hours – or until the next feed. One burp isn’t usually enough.

In practice, you have to be reasonably vigorous. My Mum is an absolute master at winding. She’d lie the baby on her lap, or across her shoulder, and do a rhythmic routine of patting, stroking up the back and patting again. Without fail, she’d get them belching for England, without so much as a whimper.

Making sure their stomach is pressed against you while winding, or propping them into a sitting position, holding their chin in one hand and patting the back with the other can work.

And *whispers* lying them on their tummy in their cot (only if they can hold their head up) also worked for all four of mine to stop the bubbles waking them up after a feed.

If you have a colicky baby, and the Woodward’s has run out, then you have the full sympathy of every parent on the planet.

I’ll let you in on another of my Mum’s bizarre, possibly placebo and thoroughly un-PC remedies for crying babies. Warm, previously boiled water, allowed to cool in a small cup with half a spoon of sugar stirred in. Give one spoonful to baby from a METAL spoon. It works especially well on hiccups.

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