Very young babies are commonly given dietary botanical supplements and teas in the United States, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has revealed. The researchers, from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, wrote that some infants receiving herbs and teas are just one month old.

Yuanting Zhang, Ph.D., and team gathered information from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II to find out how frequently young babies are being given dietary botanical substances (DBS) and teas. The survey consisted of 2,653 mothers with healthy full-term or near full-term babies from 2005 to 2007.

The researchers found that approximately 9% of babies during their first year of life were given teas or DBS – some of them just one month old.

Babies who were breast fed for a long time, as well as those of Hispanic mothers and mothers who regularly used herbal products, were much more likely to be given DBS or teas.

The majority of teas and DBS were specifically aimed at infants.

Mothers said they gave DBS and teas to their infants in order to relax them, to help their digestion, clear fussiness, and treat colic.

Examples of DBS given to babies included gripe water, chamomile, teething tablets, tea, mint, tummy soother, fennel, anise, echinacea, catnip, ginger, herbal cold remedies.

Mothers quoted health professionals, friends and family members as their most common sources of information.

In an Abstract in the journal, the authors wrote:

“A substantial proportion of infants in this sample was given a wide variety of supplements and teas. Because some supplements given to infants may pose health risks, health care providers need to recognize that infants under their care may be receiving supplements or teas.”

“Feeding of Dietary Botanical Supplements and Teas to Infants in the United States” (PDF)
Yuanting Zhang, PhD, Elizabeth B. Fein, MA, and Sara B. Fein, PhD
Pediatrics doi:10.1542/peds.2010-2294

Written by Christian Nordqvist