Your screaming baby is impossible to console, and your patience is wearing thin. Luckily, the baby is healthy, but this doesn’t explain the seemingly endless wails that leave you on edge and your baby miserable.
When all of a child’s basic needs have been met and they still cry for more than three hours a day, the culprit is likely colic. Here is what Mayo Clinic says about colic.
While colic isn’t dangerous in and of itself, it exhausts parents and leads to frustration.
There’s no absolute way to know why a perfectly healthy child can’t be consoled, but research studies connect colic with abdominal pain, specifically discomfort in the gastrointestinal system.
The American Academy of Pediatrics found that colicky babies respond positively when treated for gastrointestinal pain. The treatment used in the study the AAP reviewed? Chamomile tea.
This study draws a strong connection between colic and the gut and also offers a non-medicinal solution that gave over half of the babies in the study, as well as their parents, relief.
As is true with any remedy or medication given to an infant, though, it’s important to understand how and why chamomile works for some children and why it might not be a great fit for others.
What is Chamomile?
If you think of flowers when you hear the word chamomile, you’re on the right track. Chamomile is a plant from the daisy family, and it’s used as a herbal remedy.
Roman chamomile is used on the skin, usually for topical issues like rashes or other irritants.
The type that is used in tea is German chamomile, and German chamomile was specifically used in the study that linked chamomile tea with happier, less colicky babies.
Chamomile tea has been used for a variety of ailments for centuries, and that’s why many parents are so comfortable offering this helpful herb to their children.
Should I Be Worried About The Caffeine?
There’s no need to worry about chamomile in tea form keeping a baby wired.
Chamomile tea is caffeine-free, so it can be enjoyed by infants or adults at any time (from a caffeine standpoint) and will not interrupt a good night’s sleep.
Why Should I Give My Baby Chamomile Tea?
A child suffering from colic is likely experiencing stomach pain that prohibits sleep or comfort.
It’s also possible that a child can’t release gas or stool due to gastrointestinal issues, so their never-ending cries come from pain.
Chamomile is perfect for this situation because it serves as a muscle relaxant. Once the tea is ingested by the baby, the stomach can release gas and stool.
2) Calming Effect
There’s also the added benefit chamomile offers: calming a baby down.
Besides relaxing muscles, chamomile can serve to neurologically relax a child, calming the brain and offering rest and sedation that leads to sleep for everyone in the house.
However, the sedation is mild and simply a positive effect of flavonoids doing their job in the baby’s brain.
3) Stronger Immune System
There’s also the immune system boost a child receives when ingesting chamomile tea.
Babies are born with immune systems that are still being built, and that makes them especially susceptible to viruses and other ailments.
Chamomile helps support the immune system and fights bacteria that can cause childhood illnesses, such as the scary wheezing condition known as croup.
4) Teething Trouble
Teething also causes major problems and pain for infants early in life, and it’s believed chamomile can even help with that.
Chamomile helps reduce inflammation, and this can reduce the pain from inflammation that is associated with teething.
5) Allergy Relief
Babies who need allergy relief can benefit from chamomile.
Chamomile works as an anti-allergenic, providing a safe decongestant for babies who are struggling with colds, allergies, or other sinus issues.
6) Diaper Rash
Chamomile tea doesn’t even have to be ingested to help out in some cases.
This tea can be used to help alleviate diaper rash, a painful problem that ails most babies in their first year of life.
It’s natural and soothing for a baby’s skin.
Concerns You Should Know About
Despite all the good news surrounding chamomile’s effect on colic, there are parents who have concerns about giving their children anything besides breastmilk or formula early in life.
In fact, many doctors won’t recommend chamomile, instead encouraging parents to wait it out and hope for relief at around the six-month mark when symptoms of colic tend to naturally subside.
1) Amount Necessary
One reason is the amount of chamomile that has to be given to a child for it to be effective.
Parents looking to see real change may administer what those in the study did to get results.
That equals over a cup a day, an excessive amount by most people’s standards.
When compared to the AAP recommendations that infants up to six-months old consume only breastmilk, giving them over a cup a day of any other liquid besides formula feels ill advised.
Medline Plus says allergies are another concern.
It’s possible for a child to be allergic to chamomile, and parents have no idea until after it is consumed.
Chamomile is part of the daisy family, so being allergic to ragweed, daisies, or marigolds leaves a person susceptible to an allergic reaction to chamomile.
Though rare, reactions are problematic for young children when they occur.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Although rare, there have been cases of anaphylaxis from chamomile.
I also would not want a parent to reduce breast or formula feeding in place of giving chamomile tea.
3) Decreased Iron Absorption
Babies need iron to support proper brain function, and because they have such limited diets in the first year of life, anything that interferes with iron absorption is a concern.
Studies show that chamomile in large doses can do just that, striking another mark against it for use in infants.
4) Digestive Troubles
Those who introduce large quantities of tea to infants also risk diarrhea or vomiting as a side effect.
5) FDA Regulation Concerns
The FDA does not regulate chamomile, so there’s no way to know if the tea is contaminated.
Toxins can go undetected and then be passed onto a baby when they consume the tea.
These risks can be mitigated by rubbing chamomile on the skin to see if a rash or any other sign of an allergic reaction occurs before letting them drink the tea – but then again, if a rash happens then you’ve just created another problem for yourself to deal with.
Buying tea from a reputable company that reveals how the tea is made is also advisable, as it talking to a child’s pediatrician before giving them chamomile.
What is the Right Way to Offer a Baby Chamomile Tea?
Weighing the benefits against the risks, you may want to proceed with using chamomile but still have concerns.
Following certain guidelines ensures the most benefits with the least likely chance of problems.
1) Be Mindful About Quantities
Don’t prepare the same quantity of tea for an infant as you would an adult.
They don’t need to sip several cups because their bodies aren’t equipped to handle large doses of water at such a young age.
Babies aren’t just tiny adults, and it’s never safe to assume their organs are capable of doing what an adult’s organs can.
2) The Skin Test
Always rub chamomile on a baby’s skin before they are allowed to ingest it.
A topical allergic reaction is no fun, but it’s much easier to treat.
Finding out a child is allergic to chamomile after they have ingested several ounces can lead to major problems that require medical attention.
3) Get Professional Medical Advice
Talk to your child’s doctor about putting them on chamomile before you do it.
Every child is different, and doctors are trained to consider the risk factors to each child before prescribing treatment.
They can voice their concerns or their approval up front, giving you peace of mind as you move forward with this treatment.
How Is The Tea Prepared?
1) Ready To Go
There is more than one way to prepare chamomile tea for a baby.
Buying tea already in the bag and simply boiling and steeping it is fine, but there are specific issues to address with this method.
One is that teas are generally made for adults. There’s not going to be proper dosage information for an infant on a tea box made for grown-ups.
The other issue is chemicals or additives that may be present in store bought tea bags.
Parents need to find a reputable brand that offers transparency about their practices.
Additives and toxins aren’t good for any of us, but they can be especially harmful for infants since their brains and bodies are still under major development.
2) Doing It Yourself
You may be more comfortable growing or buying your own chamomile and simply boiling it without the tea bag.
This eliminates some of the toxin load, but it will result in added debris that will need to be removed before the baby consumes it.
Always dilute a tea for an infant much more than you would for an adult.
Babies don’t need to taste the chamomile, and they don’t need a strong hit to feel the calming sensation this herb offers.
If a child is taking chamomile tea to deal with teething, you can dip a cold washcloth in the tea and let the baby suck on it. This gives immediate contact to the gums, and a teething infant may enjoy the feel of a cloth to chew on.
For diaper rash, simply mix a brewed cup of chamomile tea with oatmeal until a paste forms. This can be applied to a child’s bottom for as long as necessary until the rash heals, and it may soothe some of the child’s pain because of chamomile’s anti-inflammatory properties.
What Is The Proper Dosage For Infants?
Dosage recommendations vary, and this is where parents really need to work with their child’s health care specialist to find a perfect fit.
The research showing over 50 percent of babies responded positively to chamomile gave infants ages two weeks to eight weeks what would be considered mega doses, over a cup a day.
Due to the already discussed concerns, this would not be recommended.
“Start small and move slowly” is sound counsel.
Stuart Ditchek M.D. spoke to Parenting Magazine and acknowledged the relaxant effects of chamomile.
Still, the recommendations for babies are clear to keep them safe. They include:
- Steeping tea in warm water and testing to make sure it’s not too hot
- Offering chamomile tea half an ounce to an ounce at a time
- Offering the tea throughout the day for continued relief
- Not going over four ounces in a 24-hour period
- Contact a doctor if a rash or other issue arises while a child is consuming the tea
It’s also essential to dilute the tea before offering it to a child. A tea that is too strong may cause problems and may not even be ingested by a child if the taste is unpleasant and dominant.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “In clinical practice, if a parent mentions that they give a few ounces of chamomile tea in the bottle for colic, I typically don’t object.
Also, some teething gels contain chamomile; as long as they don’t also contain benzocaine, caffeine or belladonna, I support parents’ use of these remedies.
I don’t necessarily encourage the use of chamomile in my patients, but I don’t object to it either.”
Not To Replace Formula Or Breast Milk
Pull back on tea consumption if an infant is refusing breastmilk or formula.
Too much other liquid going into a baby’s body will fill them up, and this isn’t good news since chamomile tea is not nutrient rich and babies need to eat to develop without issues.
Stick to the “less is more” rule and try to help a child deal with colic with the least amount of chamomile tea needed, not the maximum amount.
What Your Doctor Needs To Know
It’s imperative that you tell your child’s doctor exactly what he or she is consuming, even if it’s as natural as can be.
Homeopathic or herbal remedies can still react negatively inside a child’s body or with other medications.
If a child’s doctor has concerns, ask questions so he or she can further explain why they don’t think chamomile is a good option for your child.
Don’t be afraid to discuss and site studies showing that it is safe for most children.
How Do You Decide?
Around 10 percent of parents in the US offer their children herbal remedies and supplements to help them out early in life.
While some people are concerned by this trend, others fully support pulling away from medicine with a myriad of side effects to try natural herbs that have been used for ages.
Research points to chamomile being a safe option for most children, and the benefits make the early months for you and your child much easier to weather.
Being honest with your doctor about what your child is taking, whether they are consuming medication or natural remedies, is essential at all times.
With all the information on the table, parents and doctors can make the best decisions for each child based on their own unique needs.