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Warnings for Mothers Giving Tea to Babies

Schatzie has bachelor's degrees in animal science and English and a master's in education.

Is it safe to give your baby herbal tea?

Is it safe to give your baby herbal tea?

Tea for Babies?

The FDA has discovered a trend that, until recently, remained largely unrealized. The fact, backed by data in a new study, is that a substantial number of mothers supply their newborn infants with herbal teas and/or various supplements (1).

The FDA concluded that up to 9% of infants receive botanical supplementation and herbal-based beverages while only a few months old (1). In 2010, there were slightly more than 4 million babies born in the United States; this means that around 360,000 of them were given more than just milk in their bottles. The study surveyed over 2,600 women soon after they gave birth (1). Of these women, 5.7% provided their babies with tea or supplements once within a two-week period and 3.6% provided their babies with tea or supplements twice or more during the same timeframe (1).

There were several reasons given why mothers provided these substances to their babies, including the following: to improve fussy, colicky, or finicky infants and to promote healthy digestion (1). For these purposes, babies were given gripe water in addition to chamomile, mint, and tea products of various types (1).

But is it okay to give tea to babies? It depends on the age of the baby, the type of tea, and the purpose of administering the tea. Read on.

Can Babies Drink Tea?

Although some herbal teas are considered safe for children, some are not, and doctors recommend not giving teas to children under 6 months old.

It also depends on the purpose for administering tea—for nurtition/feeding or for helping with symptoms. While some herbal teas might be helpful to relieve children of specific symptoms, feeding tea to infants is never recommended because it lacks the nutrition they need to thrive.

If you are considering giving tea to your child—for alleviating symptoms rather than feeding—then make sure to give them the right kind and amount of tea and always check with your pediatrician first.

Is Tea Safe for Infants?

Before six months of age, it is only recommended that babies drink breastmilk or formula. Other fluids lack nutrition, have imbalanced electrolytes, and can harm a baby's maturing kidneys.

Below, we discuss which herbs, in what amounts, and at what age it's safe to give tea to a child.

FDA Warnings

A warning has been issued to physicians treating infants to look for possible drug interactions with any substances provided to a baby by its mother. It is important for mothers to provide doctors with that information. Any tea or supplement given to a baby should be made known to medical professionals. Failure to do so may inadvertently jeopardize an infant's health.

Tea Ingredients That May Harm Infants

Administering teas to children under 6 months of age is not recommended.

Ingredients to AvoidReason

caffeine

many issues, including problems with sleeping, digesting, and concentrating; heart rate, blood pressure; dehydration

green tea

may caffeine and/or oxalic acid; risk of anemia and other negative reactions

star anise

can cause neurological complications

peppermint

some contain high levels of methanol, which may cause reactions and/or choking; some peppermint teas contain caffeine

chamomile

allergy and contamination risk

licorice

may cause interactions with digoxin and furosemide and/or blood pressure issues

ginger

risk of heartburn, decreased platelet aggregation, and/or contact dermatitis

comfrey

risk of liver damage

pesticides and heavy metals

pesticides and heavy metals are not listed on the ingredients, but are found in many teas and may cause harm to an infant

Don't Give Babies Caffeinated Tea

Never give babies caffeine. Even limited amounts of caffeine can have negative effects, including

  • nervousness and attention/concentration issues
  • sleep issues
  • upset stomach/vomiting
  • headaches
  • faster heart rate
  • higher blood pressure
  • dehydration

Teas to Avoid Giving to Infants

Avoid teas containing star anise. Although traditionally used as a colic treatment, a WebMD Health News Bulletin from 2004 cites possible contamination of the herb. Mixtures of Chinese star anise with the related Japanese version have resulted in neurological complications, as the latter is highly toxic (2).

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Babies aged 2 to 12 months presenting signs of anise toxicity were given as little as one star anise to as many as six, as infrequently as once daily, or as often as four times a day (2).

Unfortunately, toxicity can also result from high levels of the Chinese version of the herb as well (2). In September of 2003, the FDA warned consumers to avoid star-anise-containing teas in general, citing evidence that 15 infants and 25 others were harmed by drinking such beverages (2).

Be cautious with peppermint. According to the Sutter Medical Foundation, peppermint beverages containing high levels of methanol may cause infants to react strongly and choke (4).

Chamomile tea effects are limited at best, harmful at worst. In a clinical study, tea including chamomile and balm-mint was found useful in treating colic (5). The catch is that in order to be ultimately effective, large quantities of the tea are required (5). The authors of the study, instead of recommending the repeated and frequent administration of chamomile-infused fluids to infants, found it much safer for parents to wait the colic out and let problems resolve themselves naturally, which normally occurs by 6 months of age (5).

Although rare, allergies to chamomile and other herbs such as daisies, marigold, or ragweed are possible (6). Further, chamomile teas may be contaminated as they are currently unregulated by the FDA; in fact, there is evidence of some chamomile mixtures containing toxic metals and other drugs (7). For this reason, individuals should always make sure to purchase teas from reliable and well-known brands.

It is not recommended to drink chamomile tea while nursing due to potential harm to a nursing infant and insufficient data exists to determine its overall effects on either infants or children (7). In conclusion, chamomile tea is not a recommended treatment option for colic as its effects are largely unknown (7).

Some Teas Contain Heavy Metals and/or Pesticides

Despite regulations, tests have revealed a long list of dangerous heavy metals and pesticides found in teas, even brands like Celestial Seasonings that claim to be all-natural. This is yet another reason to avoid giving tea to an infant.

Tea Can Impair Nutrient Absorption

A study of 122 infants between 6 to 12 months of age showed that those who drank tea were significantly more likely to develop microcytic anemia, or anemia accompanied by small blood cells (3). Because tea interferes with the absorption of iron, 32.6% of tea drinkers developed this condition versus only 3.5% of non-tea drinkers (3). It is recommended that if tea is given to infants that it is done so hours before and after meals so as not to negatively impact the absorption of nutrients (3).

A beverage comparison study found that although inhibition of iron absorption was the highest in black tea (79-94%), it was second highest in peppermint tea (84%) and significant in chamomile tea as well (47%) (8).

What About Herbal Teas?

  • Herbal tea should never be given to a baby under 6 months of age because of risk of allergy and/or contamination.
  • Just because the label says "herbal" does not make it safe. Ingredients like caffeine, menthol, and ragweeds are just some of the things that might make an herbal tea unsafe for a baby.
  • For children over 2 years old, herbal teas can be a healthier option than sugary drinks.
  • Some herbal teas can help children at least 2 years old with mild symptoms (like colds, allergies, or motion sickness).

Sources

1. FDA: Infants Often Get Herbal Teas, Supplements by Michael Smith accessed at http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/GeneralPediatrics/26215

2. WedMD accessed at http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20041112/herbal-tea-for-infant-colic-unsafe

3. Tea Drinking and Microcytic Anemia in Infants by Merhav, Amitai, Palti and Godfrey accessed at http://www.ajcn.org/content/41/6/1210.abstract

4. Sutter Medical Foundation accessed at http://www.suttermedicalfoundation.org/health/healthinfo/index.cfm?A=C&hwid=hn-1191006

5. Clinical Inquiries. What is the best treatment for infants with colic? by Crotteau, Wright and Eglash accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822454

6. MedLine Plus accessed at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/752.html

7. Drugs.com accessed at http://www.drugs.com/mtm/chamomile.html

8. Inhibition of non-haem iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages by Hurrell, Reddy, and Cook accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Inhibition%20of%20non-haem%20iron%20absorption%20in%20man%20by%20polyphenolic-containing%20beverages

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Schatzie Speaks (author) on July 31, 2019:

Hi Gabina, thank you for your positive feedback!

Gabina on August 27, 2018:

love it, it is very preventive measures.

svet on November 29, 2017:

These days we are encouraged to give babies medications and drugs over anything natural. Using tea to sooth babies tummies goes back many generations and im sure most of our parents nursed is in this natural method- i know my parents did. Now days if its not manufactured by some pharmacutical company it is deemed "dangerous"! This is ludacrist and just simply sourced from money grabbing big pharma!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 12, 2014:

i heard that kids and infants shouldn't drink caffeine drinks. Affect their behavior

Mo Rita from IL on February 26, 2014:

Several of my pediatricians here in the US have recommended chamomile tea for babies with stomach distress. My friend in Germany says most babies there are given a bottle of chamomile tea at least once a day. Interesting dichotomy, I suppose.

erorantes@yahoo on December 24, 2013:

Thank you for the good and helpful information in your article. You did fantastic job with your hub. Miss Schatzie speaks , I like your pictures.

Andreea on November 26, 2013:

Great! Thank you very much! I will post the link to the translation here, when we publish it. Of course, it will include the link to this article.

Have a nice day!

Schatzie Speaks (author) on November 26, 2013:

Hi Andreea,

Please do. I want as many people as possible to know the dangers of giving babies tea!

Thanks for spreading the word,

Schatzie

Schatzie Speaks (author) on October 03, 2013:

Hi Hendrika,

I am curious about rooibos tea, I will see if I can find any information on it and update this hub if it sounds dangerous. I want to get as many useful facts as possible out there for parents so they can avoid any health risks to their babies! Thank you for mentioning it!

Schatzie

Schatzie Speaks (author) on October 03, 2013:

Hi Travis,

I was surprised as well at how common it is! I think it may just be desperation to try to calm a very fussy baby, but it definitely is not the best option out there!

Thanks for the comment,

Schatzie

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on October 03, 2013:

This is scary, most of us did not know about the dangers and gave our babies tea. In South Africa it is rooibos tea, but after this article I think even that is dangerous.

Travis on September 19, 2013:

Wow, I can't believe anyone would give their baby herbal tea on a regular basis. That must build up a lot of toxins in their systems. I have given baby weak tea as an herbal remedy, but just a few sips. If they can't tolerate spices, they can't tolerate tea. Seems like common sense to me, but I guess some people have no sense of what to give and what not to give a baby.

Schatzie Speaks (author) on May 23, 2011:

Thank you, RTalloni, for your comment and vote!

Of course, absolutely! Link away. :)

RTalloni on May 23, 2011:

So hard to believe that tiny ones would be given teas. Well done. Voted up. Thank you for posting this.

I would like to link this hub to mine on drugs, vitamins, and supplements, if you have no objection. Thanks.

Schatzie Speaks (author) on May 02, 2011:

Thank you Mathair and Golfgal for your comments. I'm happy you found it useful and thank you for your vote! I really appreciate it. :)

Golfgal from McKinney, Texas on May 02, 2011:

Thank you for posting this important hub. So many people give babies ta in bottles thinking it is healthy. It is scary to me. Babies have such little time when ingesting soemthing toxic to get first aid before going into arrest. voted up and useful

mathair from Ireland on May 02, 2011:

Very useful information. Voted up and useful Thank you

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