You love your baby more than anything, but you don't know what to do when they're not feeling themselves. We want something effective but natural and gentle at the same time for common health problems we see in babies. One of these natural solutions may be chamomile, a gentle herbal remedy safe enough for babies to take.
- Babies often suffer from colic, constipation, diarrhoea and dermatitis. Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and muscle relaxant effects, which can help to relieve these complaints.
Could chamomile tea, with its honey-like taste and scent, be an effective herbal remedy for these issues? Let's look at what it can do.
Chamomile tea can calm a crying baby
Colic may be common, but it hurts us too to see our babies crying in pain. Although colic is defined as crying for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for at least the past three weeks, it may feel like we spend most of our time enduring it. We don’t want to use anything that might harm our babies but would do anything to give them relief.
One clinical trial tested a herbal tea containing German chamomile, fennel, licorice, vervain and balm mint against a flavoured placebo “tea” in babies aged two to eight weeks. All of them were given up to three doses of 150mL as needed. A second study used chamomile with lemon balm and fennel, which was given to all babies in the treatment group twice a day.
- In the first trial, just over half – 57% - of babies given the real tea had complete relief of colic, compared to only one-quarter of those given the placebo.
The herbal tea blend was, overall, around twice as effective as the placebo at relieving this upsetting health problem.
Chamomile tea helps babies with gas
Healthcare professionals are often unsure of what colic is, so there are a few possible ways that chamomile tea may work. The definition of colic is simply that an otherwise healthy baby is crying excessively for no apparent cause.
Some theories say that colic is a form of anxiety caused by your baby adjusting to the world. When they get used to the lights and sounds of the outside world, or develop a better self-soothing ability, the colic goes away. In fact, carrying babies more often is linked to relief of colic.
Others say that colic is a stomach ache brought on by poor digestion, excess gas, or heightened sensitivity to it. Sometimes, this may be caused by food intolerance, such as that to cow's milk. Thankfully, chamomile could calm colic in any of these situations, thanks to the flavonoid apigenin.
- Apigenin can soothe muscle cramps in the digestive tract with its muscle relaxant and sedative effects, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. By increasing levels of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter that promotes sleep, apigenin could relieve anxiety in babies too.
Chamomile tea may help soothe colic in babies, whether its true nature is anxiety, stomach cramps or food intolerance.
Chamomile tea helps fight diarrhoea in babies
Diarrhoea is no joke, especially not for babies, as it can lead to dehydration. If our babies have it, we often have to stay up all night, making sure they are both clean and hydrated. Most treatment for diarrhoea is just that, keeping our children hydrated until the infection passes. Diarrhoea is so common in babies and young children, however, that it is almost a rite of passage for new parents.
Chamomile tea may be an effective way of speeding up their recovery from diarrhoea. A trial where 79 children aged six months to five years gave them either a standardised chamomile extract with apple pectin or a placebo for three days.
- Chamomile extract was more effective than just making sure they were well-hydrated and letting their bodies do the rest.
A much larger study on 255 children with the same issue found that the chamomile extract and pectin treatment significantly relieved diarrhoea too. There weren’t any side effects either, so you can be assured that you won’t harm your baby.
How chamomile may help
Part of how chamomile tea may work for diarrhoea is through its antimicrobial effect. Studies show that chamomile extracts can act against a wide range of bacterial species, as well as the fungal species Candida albicans.
- The bacterial species that chamomile can target include E. coli, which is often involved in cases of diarrhoea.
Chamomile could be a soothing anti-inflammatory remedy too, calming down the digestive tract. Immune cells treated with chamomile extract are less responsive to the inflammatory toxins produced by bacteria, for example. The signalling chemicals they do produce are then shifted more towards protective substances that nip the need for inflammation in the bud too.
Chamomile tea can reduce the severity of acute diarrhoea in babies and young children, most likely through an antimicrobial effect.
Chamomile tea may help to alleviate constipation
Constipation isn’t as immediately dangerous as diarrhoea, but we still want to relieve it as soon as possible. Like gas, cramps and diarrhoea, constipation can be caused by unaddressed food intolerances, but chamomile tea may provide symptomatic relief.
A clinical study on post-surgical constipation demonstrated gentle laxative effects of chamomile. Its anti-inflammatory properties are thought to be partly behind these benefits, soothing the nerves and allowing them to function.
- Applying chamomile onto new mothers’ stomachs was able to restart bowel sounds in 11 hours, compared to 18 hours in the placebo group. They were able to eat after an average of 10.8 hours, instead of 12.9 hours, too.
Constipation seen in babies is generally milder than post-surgical constipation, so a homemade chamomile tea cream may be strong enough. For extra relief, watch this video tutorial for baby abdominal massage.
Chamomile promotes the healthy contraction of bowel muscles, potentially relieving constipation even in some severe cases.
Chamomile tea is good for nappy rash and eczema
Both eczema and nappy rash are forms of dermatitis, or skin inflammation. While nappy rash involves irritation, eczema is an inflammatory disorder related to allergies.
In a German study, chamomile extracts have shown themselves to be effective against eczema. This condition involves the loss of healthy skin barrier function, leading to dryness and a cycle of inflammation.
- Chamomile cream was shown to be more effective than placebo in cases of eczema. The herbal remedy even slightly beat cortisone, which comes with skin-damaging side effects.
In another trial from Germany, chamomile extract sped up wound healing after dermabrasion. This is an important point if your baby is struggling with eczema or a simple nappy rash. The itching and irritation of dermatitis can lead to sores, which are an infection risk and feel as nasty as they look.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of chamomile tea can make it a useful tool in relieving common forms of dermatitis.
Can boost breastfeeding and increase milk supply
Breast milk is the best milk for your baby. With its complex set of nutrients tailored just for babies, health experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and then partial use of breastfeeding until the age of two. Sounds great, but what if you cannot produce enough? While there’s no shame in using a quality formula or donated breast milk, there are ways to improve your milk production.
Chamomile tea isn’t typically seen as a galactagogue (the herbal medicine term for a remedy that increases breast milk), but it may be helpful.
A case study of a mother feeding her three-month-old baby described the effects of her drinking chamomile tea every day, prepared with one to three grams of dried chamomile flowers: First, she noticed that her breasts would feel swollen every time she would drink the tea.
- The mother then discovered she could pump 90mL of breast milk at a time instead of the 60mL she'd otherwise get. This is a significant finding, as it is estimated that 42% of mothers quit breastfeeding in the first six weeks.
Chamomile may have worked by stimulating oestrogen receptors, promoting breast tissue growth. What’s more, it could slow the removal of oestrogen from the body. Even though more clinical research is needed, chamomile is a safe herbal remedy for most people, so why not try it for yourself?
Tentative evidence suggests that chamomile tea may support breast milk production, helping you to feed your baby.
How to give chamomile tea to babies
Some research on chamomile tea described above has even involved babies as young as two weeks old. However, we don’t recommend that you give your baby anything other than breast milk (or an appropriate substitute) by mouth for the first six months.
If your baby is old enough to drink chamomile tea, avoid the use of sugar or honey. Sugar may contribute to tooth decay, and honey can contain a dangerous species of bacteria that causes botulism. As babies’ immune systems are not yet developed, they are at a higher risk of severe infections.
When you decide to give chamomile tea to your baby, the next question is, what is the best way to do it? There are several ways to administer chamomile, depending on the issue:
- For skin problems such as rashes, you can add a cup of strong chamomile tea to your baby's bath. Make sure that it's cooled enough to avoid overheating the bathwater, and patch test for any allergic reaction first.
- If you want to hold the chamomile to your baby's skin for longer, or you are dealing with digestive discomfort, you can mix a strong chamomile tea into a base cream and rub it in.
- For internal use, add the tea to baby food such as mashed fruit or vegetables.
Plain tea and homemade herbal creams, made with a strong cup of chamomile tea, are the best ways to give chamomile to your baby.
Recipe: Chamomile Cream
An all-natural skin cream with chamomile tea may be an effective way to relieve dermatitis and even constipation. For a simple cream, you need:
- 200mL of a strong chamomile tea
- 200 grams of olive or coconut oil, preferably organic.
- 15 grams of beeswax
First, infuse the chamomile flowers into hot water for at least 10 minutes. Heat your beeswax over low heat in a small saucepan while it is infusing, and then slowly combine the oil and tea while stirring constantly.
Recipe: Chamomile Teething Iceblocks
Seeing your baby develop their first teeth is both exciting and upsetting. We love to see our babies growing up and able to enjoy “big kid” food, but at the same time, it is painful. The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of chamomile could thankfully extend to teething support too.
An easy recipe you can make for this special time only needs:
- One strong cup of chamomile tea
- 1/3 cup of milk, either breast or coconut milk
- 2/3 cups of frozen fruit, such as berries
First, infuse the chamomile tea in 250mL of water, keeping the flowers in until you have a strong cup. Blend the frozen fruit, and combine all three ingredients together! Pour them into a suitable mould and insert child-appropriate sticks, then freeze them and keep them for when your child needs one.
Is Chamomile Tea Safe For Babies?
In short, yes. Clinical studies on the use of chamomile have even involved babies as young as two weeks old. However, we recommend you stick to herbal tea, as alcohol-based herbal extracts are much stronger.
Allergies to chamomile tea can, unfortunately, exist even in babies. If your baby has an allergy or intolerance to chamomile, common signs include diarrhoea, nausea, lethargy, irritation around their lips and tongue, and facial swelling. A serious reaction involves anaphylaxis, where the airways close over. Therefore, it is best for you to test a tiny amount of chamomile first.
Is Chamomile Tea Safe During Pregnancy?
Perhaps you are reading this in preparation for your new baby and want to drink chamomile tea yourself. Chamomile tea is used as a remedy for morning sickness by thousands of women around the world, so you can safely enjoy it too.
Does Chamomile Tea Contain Contaminants?
You may have heard of cases where chamomile tea was found to contain Clostridium botulinum, a dangerous species of bacteria. This contamination has been picked up in samples of loose flower buds, so it is best for you to buy tea bags. We can’t take any chances, as babies’ immune systems are still developing.
Chamomile tea’s anti-inflammatory, relaxant and antimicrobial properties may make it a helpful remedy for some issues we see in babies. They include the all-too-common colic, diarrhoea and eczema, and you may even be able to use it as a breastfeeding aid.
Have you tried chamomile tea for your baby before?