Should You Be Giving Your Child Melatonin?

Let's talk melatonin supplements.

We put our kids’ lunches in BPA-free containers and feed them grassfed organic milk and are so cognizant of what we’re putting into their growing bodies. We spend hours researching the best 3s program and kindergartens so they can be the next RBG.

And yet, in the middle of the night, we get desperate. We google “2 year sleep regression” or “6 year old waking up overnight” and, lo and behold, find a bevy of posts on mom forums about the wonders of melatonin. You check on Amazon and see that you can have a bottle of it at your house the very next day. Seems like a magical cure, right!?

Wrong. Those super cute gummies are so much hope in one little package... but they could be doing more harm than good.

Let’s look at the facts:  

- Melatonin is regulated as a food supplement in the United States. It hasn’t been tested like a prescription drug would be. You wouldn’t give your child an untested drug, right? Giving them melatonin is doing exactly that.

- In fact, in the European Union and Australia, you need a prescription for melatonin.

- There are no dosing standards that companies have to follow, meaning that the actual dosage that you give your child could vary from what the packaging says. A 1mg dose could really be more or less than that.

- According to pediatrician and Director of the Yale Sleep Center, Dr. Craig Canapari, there haven’t been any long term studies on the effects of melatonin in children and not even any great ones about short term use. 

- The little data there is actually points to melatonin NOT having a significant effect on helping kids fall asleep or stay asleep

Bottom lineThere’s no good reason to give our kids an extra-large dose of something their body already produces, especially a substance that hasn’t been adequately tested for use in kids. So unless your child has a special need AND your doctor has recommended it (and has shown you scientific studies to back up the recommendation), just say no. It’s not worth the risk.

Instead, work on the underlying sleep problems. Does your child know how to self-soothe at bedtime and overnight? Is she sleeping in a  dark, cool, safe sleep environment? Is bedtime early enough? (usually the answer is no!) Is she getting screen time 2 hours or less before bedtime? These are all indicators that the underlying issue is most likely related to sleep hygiene. So clean up your child’s sleep habits and save the gummies for a real treat!

For more information, check out this article by Seattle Mama Doc and this article by Dr. Craig Canapari.