The bark of the slippery elm tree has been used for centuries as a component of traditional North American medicine. When combined with water, slippery elm produces a slick, odorless substance known as mucilage. This contributes to slippery elm’s many medicinal effects. Although most commonly used by adults, slippery elm may offer benefits to babies and toddlers. Consult your child’s pediatrician before using any herbal remedy.
Slippery elm powder may be mixed with breast milk, infant formula, water or fruit juice for use as a naturopathic medicine in babies.Slippery elm appears to safely treat conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea and gastroesophogeal reflux disease. Additionallylippery elm supplements may prevent episodes of bile reflux. In babies, slippery elm can ease these conditions by coating the digestive tract with mucilage.
Traditionally, slippery elm bark has been crushed and dried for use in homemade diaper powders. This natural product can absorb moisture and protect a baby’s sensitive skin from the acidity of urine and feces. The UMMC notes that slippery elm, when applied to the skin, can help to treat wounds, boils, eczema and psoriasis. If you use slippery elm on your baby’s skin, take extra care to prevent your baby from inhaling the fine powder.
The UMMC recommends calculating a baby’s dose of slippery elm based on his weight. A baby who weighs 25 lb. would take one-sixth of the adult dose of slippery elm, or 1 tsp., three times daily. Similarly, a 13-lb. baby could take 1/2 tsp. three times per day, and a 6-lb. baby could take 1/4 tsp. three times per day. Always dissolve slippery elm powder thoroughly in warm liquid; heat the water, milk or juice to enable more effective blending.
Although there is no evidence that slippery elm can harm babies, it is still best to use naturopathic medicines only under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. According to the UMMC, no studies have investigated slippery elm’s effects on a baby’s body, and there is no evidence that it can replace other necessary drugs for treating serious medical conditions. Slippery elm can slow the absorption of prescription drugs, so do not give the product within two hours of administering medication.
Slippery elm’s gummy texture could, in theory, cause a baby to choke. If slippery elm bark congeals or clumps in your baby’s bottle, do not give it to her. Thoroughly consult a pediatrician or other health care provider before using slippery elm, particularly if your baby has difficulty swallowing due to physical or neurological abnormalities. Report any side effects to an experienced practitioner.
Visit the UMMC for more information about slippery elm for babies.