Can I Take Melatonin While Breastfeeding?

Mother nursing newborn

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Sleepless nights can put a major strain on your ability to thrive and function. If you are plagued by insomnia, you may have tried melatonin supplements to help kickstart your circadian rhythm and help you get the sleep you need.

If you recently had a baby, you may find yourself wondering if you can safely take melatonin. Caring for an infant has its fair share of stressors. Whether you are overwhelmed by the huge task of being completely responsible for meeting your little human's basic needs or you find yourself feeling anxious and worrying constantly (or both!), it's not surprising to find it hard to sleep at night.

Breastfeeding parents may wonder whether taking melatonin is safe for their nursing infants. At this point in time, not enough research has been done on taking melatonin while breastfeeding to say for sure if any amount is safe. Until we know more, it is best to seek out other alternatives to help you rest well.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in your body that helps to make you feel sleepy at nighttime. When you are in the dark, your brain produces more melatonin. Melatonin production sets your circadian rhythm into motion, allowing you to sleep better at night and feel more wakeful and energized during the day.

"Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm," explains Sara Huberman Carbone, MD, a pediatrician at One Medical.

You can also take melatonin as a supplement. Many people take melatonin to help them sleep at night. Taking melatonin can be helpful to reset your circadian rhythm such as when you have jet lag or if you are suffering from insomnia related to a stressful life event.

Is It Safe to Take Melatonin While Breastfeeding?

There is not enough research on melatonin and breastfeeding to know for sure or not if it is safe. "There have not been any studies evaluating the safety of melatonin when breastfeeding," notes Dr. Carbone. For this reason, it is best to avoid taking melatonin until you have fully weaned your baby.

We do know that melatonin passes through your breastmilk to your baby. In fact, it appears that Mother Nature planned this well. Studies show that your milk contains a higher concentration of melatonin in the evenings. This would presumably help your baby sleep better at night. Newborns tend to have their days and nights mixed up for the first few weeks and melatonin plays a role in fixing that.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking melatonin while breastfeeding.

Why You Should Not Take Melatonin While Breastfeeding

The melatonin produced naturally in our bodies makes up one of breastmilk's important components, but we do not know if it is safe to take higher concentrations of melatonin supplements. We do not know what effects this might have on a nursing baby. Until further research is carried out, melatonin is not considered safe to take while breastfeeding.

The good news is that researchers speculate that taking a small amount of melatonin over a short period of time may be OK to do while breastfeeding. Stay tuned for further research if you were hoping to take melatonin; but for now, it's still best to hold off.

Risks of Melatonin While Breastfeeding

We don't know exactly what the risks of taking melatonin while breastfeeding are, but we can speculate using what we know about how melatonin affects young children. In children, melatonin can cause agitation, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, and increased bedwetting. Nursing infants may presumably suffer similar side effects if the parent they nurse from takes melatonin.

Excessive sleepiness from melatonin can severely impact your child's health. A baby who cannot fully wake is at an increased risk of developing jaundice or failure to thrive. Due to the side effects of melatonin, it is safer to avoid melatonin while breastfeeding.

When Can I Resume Using Melatonin?

It is OK to start taking melatonin after your baby is fully weaned. At this point, there is no further risk to your child. However, if you do become pregnant again, you should stop taking melatonin, because like breastfeeding, not enough research has been done on taking melatonin while pregnant to say for sure whether it is safe.

Breastfeeding Safe Alternatives

Taking melatonin while breastfeeding is not recommended, but there are a few things you can do to boost your body's natural melatonin production and help you get the sleep you need.

Get in the Sunshine

Exposing yourself to natural light is the number one way to reset your circadian rhythm, helping you feel energized and awake during the day and ready to wind down when evening comes.

Power Down Devices

Looking at screens an hour or two before bed can suppress melatonin production, making it impossible to settle down for a good night's sleep. As tempting as it is to scroll your newsfeed in the evenings before bed, putting your phone and other devices away may be the best thing you can do to improve your sleep.

Sleep in Pitch Darkness

Darkness promotes melatonin production and light suppresses it. "In fact, your body can’t produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep, when certain types of lights are present," notes Katie Pitts, a certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant and the founder of Sleep Wise Consulting. "I recommend blackout curtains and I promise you will sleep so much better when there is no light at all."

A Word From Verywell

Melatonin supplements are not considered safe to take while breastfeeding because as of now, we simply do not know enough about how they might affect a nursing infant.

Instead, try to naturally promote melatonin production in your body by practicing good sleep hygiene. Expose yourself to light in the morning and keep the lights dim in the evenings. Turn off your devices an hour or two before you plan to sleep, as well.

Always reach out to a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about taking melatonin while breastfeeding.

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