Parents all want that magic pill to get our kids to instantly go to bed without whining or stalling, sleep 12 hours straight, and wake up happy in the morning. Or maybe a magic pill to make them eat all their food without complaining too . . . right? If you find one like that, tell me about it!
I've been the mom who has fought with her toddlers for hours to get them to go to bed, all while going over a list in my head of things I needed to get done as soon as they were asleep. I've been the mom, dreading bedtime because I knew it was going to be a battle. And I've also been the mom who gave her toddlers melatonin every night for months. And while it may have put a bandaid on the problem and solved it in the short-term, it didn't solve the root of their sleep issues. That's what sleep training does.
What is melatonin? Melatonin is a natural hormone our bodies make that tells us we're getting sleepy. It helps regulate our circadian clocks and our wake/sleep cycles. The over-the-counter form of melatonin you can buy in gummy or liquid form for your kids is a synthetic form of the hormone that mimics our natural melatonin.
Is it safe?
If you've already given your toddler or child melatonin or if you're considering it, here are a few things to consider about melatonin:
Is it necessary and beneficial?
Melatonin supplements (with you doctor's consent) can help kids fall asleep quickly, but the good news is - kids don't need melatonin supplements, because their bodies already make it naturally. You can help encourage their bodies to produce melatonin naturally and end their bedtime battles, so they can go to sleep easily and quickly, and stay asleep all night long, all without giving them supplements!
How to Get Your Kids to Sleep Without Melatonin
After the 2 year sleep regression, when my kids were struggling at bedtime and taking a long time to fall asleep, I did give them melatonin every night. But once I discovered the natural ways to help them get to sleep easily, I cut the melatonin cold turkey one night and applied bedtime sleep training methods (they were both already sleeping through the night). After a few nights of consistency and patience, they caught on quickly and began to go to sleep on their own, within minutes of being laid down, without a bedtime battle and stay asleep for 11-12 hours. It is possible! It just takes consistency and intentionality.
We do still have melatonin gummies for kids on hand, for situations where they may need extra help (such as traveling, days when their schedule is off track, etc.), but we honestly haven't used it in many months. They don't need it. They never did need it; I just didn't know how to help them get to sleep easily without it.
Things that will help your kids get to sleep without melatonin:
Many bedtime battles take place because a child relies on a parent to get to sleep. The child doesn't know how to get to sleep on their own, or may have regressed into an old habit of needing to be rocked to sleep, patted to sleep, or have a parent's presence to get to sleep. They may have gotten into the habit of asking for water five times before bed, needing more and more engagement from the parent, asking for snacks, or doing anything they can to manipulate or drag out the bedtime process. It's not only exhausting for parents, but it interferes with the child's sleep and can have many negative effects on them. I've worked with families who have kids who went from hours of bedtime battles and frustration every night, to falling asleep on their own, without crying, within minutes of being laid down. When you start sleep training, prepare to be consistent, committed, and intentional. Don't just wing it; go in with a plan. If you need help, I would love to help walk you through this process. Reach out if you want to know more about my services.
Unfortunately, I don't have a magic pill for getting kids to go to sleep quickly, quietly, and easily, all on their own, and stay asleep all night. But sleep training is the next best thing! It's almost like magic.
*NOTE: This is not medical advice; seek your doctor's recommendation before you give anything to your child.