Sleep deprivation is common for new parents. Insomnia, inability to stay asleep, and inability to fall asleep, all of these are problems that come with parenthood. The stress of being a new parent can be too much for some parents. For women, you also have problems like swollen breasts, nighttime nursing, and more. So, new parents are naturally asking can you take melatonin while breastfeeding?
We know melatonin is a sleep aid but is it safe? What can you do if you have trouble sleeping? Sleepless nights can put even more strain on your ability to thrive and function properly.
Caring for an infant comes with its own share of challenges and stressors. Breastfeeding parents think melatonin is the answer. Is it? Let’s discuss this.
Challenges For Nursing Mothers
Here is a fun fact. The hormone prolactin, which aids lactation, also plays a role in moderating stress in nursing mothers. You might think this will help you sleep better.
In fact, some say that the benefit of breastfeeding is that it helps with insomnia. But that doesn’t mean you will not have sleep problems. Regularly interrupted sleep can often result in sleep deprivation. Over time, that can worsen, and lead to problems like:
- Daytime grogginess
- Dozing off
- Poor concentration
- Slowed response time
- Constant yawning
What Is Melatonin?
Let’s talk more about this miracle aid that women think can help them. Before we can talk about whether can you take melatonin while breastfeeding, we have to explain the ingredient.
The simple answer is melatonin is a hormone produced by our body that helps us feel sleepy at nighttime. So, why would you take something that our body produces naturally?
When you are in a dark place, your brain produces more melatonin, which is why we need to turn the lights off to sleep.
Melatonin production sets your circadian rhythm into motion and allows you to sleep at night and feel wakeful and energized during the day.
The pituitary gland produces the melatonin hormone and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Yes, you can also take melatonin supplements. Many people do this to help them sleep at night.
Is It Safe During Breastfeeding?
We have to stress that there is not enough research done on melatonin supplements and breastfeeding to know for sure.
For this reason alone, it is best to avoid it to be sure. Some experts recommend avoiding melatonin until you have fully weaned your baby.
What we do know is that melatonin passes through your breast milk to your baby. Mother Nature planned this well. Melatonin passes so that your baby can sleep better at night.
Does Melatonin Pass Into Breast Milk?
We answered this already, but let’s say it again. Because your body produces natural melatonin, some of it passes into your breast milk.
The concentration of melatonin levels will be higher in the milk that you produce at night than during the day. And if you take melatonin supplements, that will also pass into your breast milk.
Do Babies Get It From Breast Milk?
Yes, babies get melatonin naturally from your breast milk. Same as with adults, melatonin helps babies regulate sleep cycles and circadian rhythm.
Lactating mothers produce more of it at night. This is why melatonin tends to peak in breast milk at nighttime.
Does Melatonin Have Any Side Effects On The Baby?
Or in other words, could taking melatonin supplements hurt your baby? What happens when a breastfeeding parent takes supplements? Will the additional melatonin produce any side effects?
Truth be told, we lack the data to know it. We also cannot say at what dosage supplemental melatonin may be too much for babies to handle.
According to a study by Lactmed, there were no safety issues in babies when breastfeeding moms took melatonin supplements. But while short-term use might not be harmful to babies, there is no data to prove this definitely.
For doctors, it is the long-term effect that is concerning. There is no data that shows what happens with a baby long-term if the mother took supplements for a while.
Why Should You Avoid Melatonin While Breastfeeding?
There is one simple reason you should avoid it. For starters, your body already produces melatonin. The one produced naturally in our body is an important component of breast milk.
We do not have data about a higher concentration of melatonin and its effects on babies. We do not know the risks of taking melatonin and how it may affect young children.
We do know that in children, melatonin can cause agitation, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and increased bedwetting.
When Can You Resume Your Melatonin Supplementation?
As most doctors will tell you, you can start taking melatonin after your baby is fully weaned. At this point, there is no risk to the child. You do not feed breast milk anymore.
Yet, if you do become pregnant again, stop taking melatonin. There is no research done on taking melatonin while pregnant. So stop it to make sure everything is safe.
What About Sleeping Pills?
Same as with melatonin, it is always better to consult your doctor regarding usage and dosage. Yet, we can say that sleeping pills like Ambien are considered safe while breastfeeding.
However, you should only use them occasionally and sparingly. The same applies to anxiety medication like benzodiazepines.
What Are Some Safe Alternatives?
We said taking melatonin while breastfeeding is not recommended. Now that we answered the question of whether you can take melatonin while breastfeeding with a no, let’s talk about some alternatives. What can you do to sleep better?
- Get in the sunshine, exposing yourself to natural light is a great way to reset your circadian rhythm. It will make you feel energized and awake
- Lower your screen time per day, and power down devices an hour or two before bed to allow your body to produce more melatonin
- Sleep in darkness, as darkness promotes melatonin promotion while light suppresses it
- Practice some breathing exercises and mindful meditation before bedtime
- Read a book to wind down rather than scrolling through your phone before going to bed
- End the day with a warm bath or a warm cup of milk
- Exercise regularly, putting your baby in a stroller and going for a walk will be enough to help you sleep better
- Stick to a bedtime routine, babies thrive on routines, and so do adults
- Skip the caffeine during the day, it might keep you awake at night
What About Over-the-counter Sleep Aids?
Most over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamines. These are medications that can help relieve allergy symptoms. Some of them, like diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness and promote sleep.
Yes, for a short period, these two active ingredients might be a safe alternative to sleeping. Only minimal amounts of antihistamines are excreted in breast milk.
Yet, as with most OTC sleep aids, there might be side effects. Those include:
- Stomach upset
- Daytime drowsiness
- Chest congestion
Using them occasionally might provide the sleep aid you want. But stay away from getting addicted to OTC sleep aids. Be mindful about using them. Instead, stick to the alternative ways that will help you sleep better. These OTC sleep aids are intended only for short-term relief of insomnia.