Colicky Babies Sour on Apple Juice

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
From the WebMD Archives

May 8, 2002 -- Parents whose babies keep them up at night with crying, screams, and abdominal pain may get some relief by switching the type of fruit juice their infant drinks. A new study shows babies with a history of colic may re-experience some of the same, fussy symptoms after drinking apple juice, but not after drinking white grape juice.

The study, published in the May 2002 issue of Pediatrics, found that colicky infants fed apple juice experienced more disturbing symptoms than those fed white grape juice.

"Ask any mother who's had a baby with colic, and she will tell you it is an emotionally painful experience for both baby and parent -- one they don't wish to revisit," says study leader Fima Lifshitz, MD, chief of nutrition sciences at Miami Children's Hospital, in a news release. "Yet for some of these children, introducing a juice that is difficult to digest can recreate some of the same symptoms that characterized the colic -- symptoms like abdominal gas, bloating, and increased crying after feeding."

Colic affects about 10-25% of all infants in the U.S.

This study looked at 30 infants, aged 4 to 6 months. Sixteen of the babies had a history of colic. All of the babies were divided into groups and fed one 4-ounce serving of apple juice or white grape juice.

"We found that the babies with a history of colic who drank apple juice exhibited significantly more crying during the study, expended more energy, slept less, and were less able to digest the carbohydrates in the juices," says lead author Debora Duro, MD, of Miami Children's Hospital, in the release. "However, among the babies who drank white grape juice, there were no real differences in symptoms between those who had colic and those who didn't -- white grape juice was well tolerated."

Researchers say crying and fussing might be a sign that infants aren't able to process the carbohydrates found in many fruit juices. And colicky babies may have a harder time digesting these carbohydrates than others.

In addition, apple and pear juices contain a substance called sorbitol and a high fructose-to-glucose ratio, which have been linked to excess production of gas and increased physical activity in previous studies.

Lifshitz says the main dietary staples for infants in this age group should be either breast milk or formula. But he adds, "When the time comes to add juice to a baby's diet, my advice is that parents should be guided by scientific research when they select a juice for their baby, and the research clearly points toward white grape juice as the best choice, particularly if their babies have had colic."

The study authors say parents should consider the age of their child and the carbohydrate content of the juice in deciding when and how to introduce fruit juices into their baby's diet.