Is it Safe to Take Melatonin While Breastfeeding? Things to Remember
It isn’t uncommon for new mothers to have trouble sleeping, and when that happens, you might want to reach for some natural sleep aids, including melatonin. The thing is that just because melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body doesn’t mean that it’s safe for nursing moms to take. The truth is that natural products such as melatonin aren’t regulated by the FDA, so before you take it, you should do two things: learn more about it and check with your doctor.
Can You Take Melatonin While Breastfeeding?
Before we go into detail about melatonin and breastfeeding, let’s talk about what melatonin is and what it does when you take it. Melatonin is a natural hormone in the body that helps keep your sleep-wake cycle working properly. It helps your circadian rhythm determine when it’s time for you to sleep and when you should be awake. For situations such as jet lag, taking a melatonin supplement can help reset your circadian rhythm.
For one thing, melatonin does pass to your breast milk, which is why some OB-GYNs discourage breastfeeding mothers from taking extra melatonin. Too much melatonin is not a good thing. The bottom line is this: there aren’t enough studies to show the long-term effects of taking melatonin when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Because of this, you should only take it occasionally and on a short-term basis, and never without checking with your doctor first.
Simply put, we just don’t know what happens to the baby if they receive too much melatonin, but we do know that the melatonin you make naturally passes through to your breast milk. For this reason, the amount of melatonin the baby receives from that breast milk should be enough, and even if you or the baby is having a hard time getting to sleep, melatonin supplements might mean that the baby is getting too much melatonin.
How Do Kids React to Melatonin?
We already know how young children react to melatonin, so it’s safe to assume that babies and toddlers may also react that way. Some of the side effects of melatonin in young children include dizziness, headaches, agitation, drowsiness, and even increased bedwetting. In babies, we know that melatonin can result in extreme drowsiness, and if that drowsiness continues, the baby has an increased risk of things such as failure to thrive or jaundice.
It may seem like a good thing for a baby to be drowsy, especially if they’ve been having a hard time getting enough sleep, but the potential side effects far outweigh the good results of the melatonin on the baby’s system. Melatonin that’s produced naturally in the woman’s body is more than enough for the baby to thrive, which is why taking melatonin while you’re breastfeeding is rarely recommended.
Nevertheless, if you absolutely cannot sleep at night and you’re interested in taking a melatonin supplement, don’t just rush out, buy it, and then start taking it. Always check with your doctor first, who may recommend small doses of melatonin and only for a short period of time. Melatonin supplements should never be taken by breastfeeding mothers unless they are under a doctor’s care and supervision.
Is it Safe to Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
There are some things that you can do when pregnant but not when you’re breastfeeding, and the other way around also applies. Having said this, if you’re wondering about taking melatonin during pregnancy, you should know that the risks that are possible when taking melatonin while you’re breastfeeding are the same when you’re pregnant; in other words, melatonin supplements should be avoided unless your doctor approves them first.
Melatonin naturally produced in the body is all right for both mom and baby, but the same cannot be said for melatonin supplements. Studies have shown that taking melatonin supplements in small doses and for short periods of time does no harm to the breastfeeding mother or the baby. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough studies to determine the true effects of melatonin supplements when a mom is pregnant or breastfeeding, and the same goes with the effect on breastfed babies.
In other words, we simply don’t know what the effects are when a pregnant or breastfeeding mom takes large doses of melatonin or takes it on a long-term basis. We don’t know the effects on the mom or on the baby, and since we don’t know, it’s best to avoid melatonin supplements altogether, unless you check with your doctor first.
If Not Melatonin, Then What?
If you’ve decided not to take melatonin supplements but you’re still having trouble sleeping, what can you do about it?
To start with, here are a few suggestions that may help:
- Exercise regularly
- Try to go to bed each night and get up each morning at the same time
- Keep the house and your bedroom cool and dark
- Stop all electronics one to two hours before you go to bed
- Limit your intake of caffeine
These are natural ways that you can use to learn to sleep better when you’re breastfeeding and can’t take supplements.
If you’ve been wondering if you can take melatonin supplements while breastfeeding or even while pregnant, the short answer is “no.” If more natural techniques like the ones mentioned above don’t help, you should ask your doctor about taking low doses of melatonin for a short period of time. Regardless of what the doctor says, keep in mind that you should never take melatonin supplements in large doses or for a long time when pregnant or breastfeeding.