Is Zantac Right for My Colicky Baby?

Colic is common. And while a fussy newborn is also common, colic is unique in that the fussiness goes on for extended periods of time.

Infants placed on antacids are at higher risk for gastrointestinal infection and community-acquired pneumonia.

For both new and veteran parents, a colicky baby can lead to sleepless nights, psychological stress, physical exhaustion, and even the breakdown of a relationship.

This is why when dealing with colic, it’s essential to know your options and to remember that it does get easier.

Your Baby’s Digestive Tract Is Still Adjusting


Colic can cause stress for both parents and baby with hours of crying and fussiness, followed by vomiting, choking, and feeding issues. Before using a prescription antacid that could damage a newborn’s developing gut, try introducing a few drops of cultured vegetable juice, made from the Veggie Culture Starter, to strengthen digestion with probiotics.

While parents of a colicky baby need no description of colic, the strict medical definition is a condition of a healthy baby in which:

  • There are periods of intense, unexplained fussing or crying.
  • Fussing or crying lasts more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week and for more than 3 weeks. (1)

However, the medical definition of colic is useful as a guideline only.

Any amount of fussing and crying for no apparent reason may be colic. If your newborn is inconsolable and cries for extended periods of time, you may want to consider colic and do your best to naturally resolve the issue as soon as possible. Crying creates stress hormones in both parents and baby.

Because colic is most often the result of an immature digestive tract, it is frequently seen in newborn babies and can peak during evening hours.

Other signs of colic are:

  • Regurgitation and vomiting
  • Feeding problems
  • Effortless vomiting
  • Choking

Keep in mind that your baby’s digestive tract is still developing. The most important part of this development involves the bacteria and yeast that colonize your baby’s gut.

In the most ideal circumstances, a baby is:

  • Born through the mother’s birth canal because this coats the newborn with the beneficial bacteria that naturally populate the vaginal walls.
  • Breastfed to receive messages from the mother’s immune system and beneficial bacteria through the breast milk.

But because every birth is different and because the immediate health of both mother and baby matter most, many children are instead born through a C-section delivery.

And because of a busy work schedule or because of shifting hormones, a mother’s milk supply may never fully mature. For this reason, many new mothers do not have the opportunity to offer breast milk to their newborn.

These two factors can contribute to the development of colic. However, even babies born under ideal circumstances can still struggle with gas, cramping, and pain.

Colicky Babies Often Receive Antacid Medication

While we know that colic has something to do with gastrointestinal function, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the cause of a colicky baby. So far, the most widely used remedy is an antacid prescription.

Zantac, otherwise known as ranitidine, has the least number of side effects and is one of the safest options to consider if your baby has colic.

That said, Zantac and many other antacids reduce the acidity of gastric juices. This may sound like a good idea if your baby suffers from acid reflux. But bear in mind that the stomach is acidic for a reason.

Stomach acid:

  • Activates key enzymes that help to break down proteins (such as milk proteins).
  • Helps to protect the rest of the digestive system from disease-causing microorganisms and parasites.

As it turns out, infants placed on antacids are at higher risk for gastrointestinal infection and community-acquired pneumonia. (2) This is true whether infants are placed on H2 antagonists like Zantac or another type of antacid called a PPI (proton pump inhibitor).

Not All Babies Improve When Using Zantac for Colic

When we give anyone an antacid, including an infant, this is because we assume that there is an excess of stomach acid.

Of course, this is only true in a small fraction of cases. And when it comes to infants, many of them do not respond well to antacid therapy. (3)

This is because not all colic can be controlled by reducing the acidity of the stomach.

What we call colic is an umbrella term that covers several forms of gastrointestinal distress. (4) In some cases, Zantac has been found to be as effective as a placebo in reducing colic. (5) In other cases, Zantac is just as damaging to the gastrointestinal mucosa as other antacids. (6)

The most important factor to consider when remedy colic is whether or not there is an absolute need to reduce stomach acid. This is because stomach acid protects a baby from infection and enhances digestion.

If you are breastfeeding and your baby has colic:

  • Introduce small amounts of beneficial bacteria to your baby by placing a drop or two of cultured vegetable juice on the baby’s tongue.
  • Eat a diet that is full of fermented foods, as these beneficial bugs eventually pass on to your baby.
  • Consider investigating a group of foods that fall under the classification of FODMAPs (fermentable olglio- di- mono-saccharides and polyols). These foods can irritate mama’s digestion and affect baby’s digestion as well!

If you are formula-feeding and your baby has colic:

  • Introduce small amounts of beneficial bacteria to your baby by placing a drop or two of cultured vegetable juice on the baby’s tongue.
  • Consider making your own non-dairy formula according to the guidelines given by the Weston A. Price Foundation. This recipe uses bone broth to promote the sealing of a baby’s naturally leaky gut, as well as healthy fats, liver, and additional probiotics.

If you must use an antacid like Zantac and it helps your little one to suffer less, then rest assured that this is the best choice that you can make.

Because antacids can compromise digestive function, be sure to boost your baby’s immune system with plenty of fermented foods and probiotic liquids when the time is right.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Colic is a common condition that can affect newborns, causing fussiness for an extended period of time. Colic is most often triggered by an immature digestive tract and can include symptoms like feeding problems, vomiting, and choking.

In many cases, C-section delivery and feeding an infant formula can contribute to the development of colic. But any baby can be susceptible to the condition that causes cramping, gas, and constant pain.

For relief, many babies are prescribed antacids like Zantac that can reduce the acidity of gastric juices. But not all cases of colic can be effectively controlled with this treatment. In some instances, Zantac can be just as damaging to the gastrointestinal mucosa as other prescribed antacids.

To remedy your baby’s colic naturally, consider the following steps:

  1. Support your baby’s gut health with small amounts of beneficial bacteria by placing a few drops of cultured vegetable juice on the baby’s tongue.
  2. Breast feeding mothers can eat a diet rich in fermented foods to pass this friendly bacteria on to the baby. Breast feeding mothers can also investigate FODMAP foods in their diet to find out if certain foods are irritating both mother and baby’s digestion.
  3. Mothers who aren’t breast feeding can consider making their own non-dairy formula based on Weston A. Price Foundation guidelines to naturally seal a baby’s leaky gut with healthy fats and probiotics.
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  1. MA Wessel, et al. Paroxysmal fussing in infancy, sometimes called colic. Pediatrics. 1954; 14 (5): 421–35.
  2. RB Canani, et al. Therapy with gastric acidity inhibitors increases the risk of acute gastroenteritis and community-acquired pneumonia in children. Pediatrics. 2006 May;117(5):e817-20.
  3. S. Salvatore, et al. Oral ranitidine and duration of gastric pH >4.0 in infants with persisting reflux symptoms. Acta Paediatr. 2006 Feb;95(2):176-81.
  4. JM Garza, et al. Time to stop blaming gastroesophageal reflux. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2011 Dec;50(12):1110-5. Epub 2011 Jun 17.
  5. B Jordan, et al. Effect of antireflux medication, placebo and infant mental health intervention on persistent crying: a randomized clinical trial. J Paediatr Child Health. 2006 Jan-Feb;42(1-2):49-58.
  6. RJ van der Pol. Efficacy of proton-pump inhibitors in children with gastroesophageal reflux disease: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2011 May;127(5):925-35. Epub 2011
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