Is it safe to give my baby melatonin to help her sleep?
No. There is no evidence to support the use of melatonin in babies to help them sleep. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain in the evening on a 24-hour schedule which helps tell the brain when it is time for sleep. Although it is not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and therefore is not subject to regulations on its purity, commercially available melatonin has been marketed to adults and children to help promote sleep.
Plus, infants do not have a 24-hour sleep cycle and they do not produce much melatonin at all until about 3 or 4 months of age. Early on, infant sleep is regulated by her need to eat. It is normal and expected that babies wake after 2 or 3 hours when they are hungry; in fact, newborns should not sleep for long periods and miss the nutrition they require to grow. Melatonin production is not part of the infant’s sleep cycle and giving it would be counter to their normal physiology and body clock.
It is also important to keep in mind that there have been no safety studies done either in adults or in children that examine the long term effects of giving extra melatonin. In fact, there is extensive evidence from animal studies that it has effects on many other body systems, including the reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems. What this could mean to a developing infant or child is completely unknown.
It is very important to note that at this time most experts in the field of pediatric sleep do not feel it is wise to give babies melatonin. There are much safer, and proven, behavioral methods to help your baby sleep, such as teaching self-soothing and proper sleep associations.
About Dr. Debra Babcock