Is Melatonin Safe for Newborns?
Melatonin is a hormone that is released from your pineal gland and helps regulate your newborn baby's sleep and wake cycles. Your newborn's body releases more melatonin when outer conditions are dark and less when it is light outside. Melatonin is available over the counter for sleeping difficulties. If your newborn is having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, you may be wondering if melatonin can help. Proceed with caution, learn as much as you can and always consult your newborn's doctor before giving your baby melatonin.
Your newborn baby's circadian rhythm is what helps her know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake. When your baby is born, she sleeps for as much as 16 hours per day, but only at three- to four-hour stretches. She is unlikely to sleep through the night because she needs to eat more often, and she has not established a fully functioning circadian rhythm yet. Your newborn's pineal gland releases melatonin to guide her wake and sleep cycles, and this will happen with more regularity as she gets older.
Melatonin is primarily used to treat nighttime insomnia so you are able to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep for longer periods of time. Drugs.com notes that melatonin is also commonly used for easing jet lag and the sleep problems often associated with menopause. Melatonin may also be used for neutralizing free radicals in your body, strengthening your immune system and helping to prevent certain types of cancer. Melatonin may also come in handy to treat sunburn, irritable bowel syndrome and epilepsy.
A newborn does not have a fully functional pineal gland, which is one reason he is not able to sleep through the night. You should not try to get your newborn to sleep through the night right away because he also needs to eat every three to four hours, if not more often, immediately following birth. Drugs.com notes that there is no evidence to support the use of melatonin in children, including infants. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that in large doses, melatonin may cause seizures. Always speak with your newborn's pediatrician before offering him any medication or supplements, including melatonin, since there is not enough evidence to prove they are safe.
If your newborn is having a difficult time sleeping, there are ways to help build healthy sleep habits that will last throughout childhood and that do not require the use of medication or supplements. Feed your baby when she is hungry, and as she gets older she will begin to sleep for longer periods of time at one stretch. Put your baby to sleep in the same place for naps and bedtime to help build your baby's association with her crib and sleep. Establish a sleep routine from the very beginning to help your newborn learn to sleep well.
- Drugs.com: Melatonin
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Melatonin; December 2009
- "The Melatonin Miracle"; Walter Pierpaoli; et al.; 1996