The dangers of melatonin supplements

Melatonin Supplements for babies- helpful or harmful?

There has been a lot of information going around lately on Social Media about melatonin for babies and children. For overtired parents who can’t seem to get their kids on a healthy sleep schedule, the promise of a magic pill or drops can be pretty enticing.

But it seems to me that more and more doctors and parents are turning to melatonin as a Band-Aid for sleep issues with their children. I frequently receive emails from people telling me they are giving their babies melatonin to help them fall asleep at night, and I have serious concerns about this.

Although melatonin may be helpful to reset the circadian rhythm for a child, it should never be used as a long term solution as we just do not know the long term side effects. Dr. Johnson-Arbor, a Hartford Hospital toxicologist, says, “It’s (melatonin) possibly thought to affect growth, and to affect sexual development and puberty.” Other side-effects can include headaches, drowsiness and stomach ache.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Melatonin should not be used in most children. It is possibly unsafe. Because of its effects on other hormones, melatonin might interfere with development.”

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by your brain and is present in every person’s body. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “no other hormone is available in the United States without a prescription. Because melatonin is contained naturally in some foods, the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows it to be sold as a dietary supplement. These do not need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or controlled in the same way as drugs.”

Thankfully there are natural ways we can encourage a higher production of melatonin that are safe and healthy for a child. Click here to read the top 5 things you can do to increase this important, sleep inducing hormone.

As a sleep coach and Mom, the rise of melatonin supplementation is incredibly alarming. There’s no need to put our kids at risk just to get them down for the night. The plain truth is, children need to be taught to sleep properly — and it’s up to us Moms and Dads to show them how through consistent, nurturing and loving support.

5 important things you can do to naturally increase melatonin production in children

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I just wrote an article about my concerns on the apparent increase in parents giving their young children and babies melatonin supplements to get them to sleep. So, I also want to equip you with some strategies to promote natural melatonin production that are safe, effective, and will ultimately help lead your child to have healthy sleep habits at night.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Have a regular bedtime for your child– melatonin production increases when there is consistency in sleeping patterns. Although this can feel extremely difficult for parents to do, it is probably one of the most important factors in creating a healthy sleep foundation for your child

2. No screen time for at least 30 minutes before bed– I actually tell my clients to push that to an hour or 1.5 hours just to be safe. Screens emit blue light waves which are known to inhibit melatonin production which is the opposite of what we’re all trying to acheive! Of course, there are a host of other concerns if a child (or adult!) is falling asleep with a screen or watching TV immediately before bed, so better to just not entertain that option!

3. Dim the lights in the house 30-45 minutes before bedtime – Again, lower lighting = higher melatonin production. Plus who doesn’t want to have nice, cozy, warm ambiance in the evening?! I’m always a little surprised at how many people use stark, white lighting in their homes!  But that’s just my personal opinion 🙂

4. Prevent light from coming into the bedroom at night – blackout blinds!! Best. Thing. Ever. Invest in some if you don’t have them. I like this one (BlackoutEZ) as they’re effective and affordable, but as long as they’re effective it doesn’t matter what kind you use. There’s some discrepancy as to whether or not you should open them to let natural light in during the morning, but I think it partly depends where you live. I’m from Edmonton, Canada where in the summer, it gets light at 3:30am which is WAY too early, so I generally suggest to keep them closed until your child wakes up naturally.

5. Bedtime Routine– the best for last! Please please please have a bedtime routine for your child! Did you know you can start a simple routine right from Day 1? Yup, that’s right! As your little one gets older, a routine 30 minutes in length tends to be just about right. And of course, incorporate all the above factors in your routine- dim lighting, no screens, and happening at the same time.

 

I have found that very little in life that is worth while, comes easy. That includes sleep. I would always do my research when anything or anyone that is saying their product is a quick fix for sleep problems. The truth is, is that a healthy sleep foundation takes time to develop. It takes a loving, caring, and consistent approach to help our little ones sleep well.

Adele

The Dreaded (Excessive) Night Feedings

This is by far, the number one killer of parental sanity during the first year! So many of my clients, in fact, I think almost every one, have this in common- baby is waking up beyond the realm of ‘normal’ for nightly feedings. And that simply is not sustainable for any well-meaning parent.

So what do you do about?  How do you break the habit? And why do we want to discourage bottles in the crib while falling asleep?

Good questions right?!

When feedings or bottles are used as a method to fall asleep, we enter into the realm of sleep props. Essentially, a sleep prop is anything external that your child needs to fall asleep that won’t be present when they wake up. Some examples: rocking, nursing, pacifier, swinging, bouncing, back rubbing, bottles.

All of these are wonderful, comforting tools in our parental toolbox to use during the day to calm and love on our children (and feed them!) but once they become a prop, most prop dependent children are going to need that exact same stimuli to fall asleep every time they end a sleep cycle at night. Sleep cycles typically are around 1.5-2 hours at night, always ending in a brief period of awakening. So that means….you’re up every 2 hours at night. Sound familiar? And if that sleep prop is a bottle or feeding, you’re little one is consuming a ton of calories during the night which then effects her feeding rhythms. And, for some families, this can go on for years.

When you put your baby in bed at night, it’s fine to include the bottle/feeding in her routine. You could start with a bath, and then pajamas and then her bottle and a story or two. But then we need to make sure that the bottle or nursing session ends before she falls asleep. Not doing so makes it really tough for her to work on her sleep strategies. And of course, falling asleep with a bottle in the crib can be very damaging for her teeth!

If your little one is over 6 months and gaining weight well, you are likely able to safely drop those night feeds all together. There are a number of different sleep coaching methods to help you get there. The Sleep Sense Method is what I trained under and used for both my kiddos- click here (and then click on the Sleep Sense link)  to purchase the book, which gives a really great step by step guide on how to do this and will set you up for success.

If you’re little one is under 6 months, then I encourage you to just give pause each time she wakes at night. Sometimes, we end up going to our children a little too quickly and if we give them a some space, they will actually put themselves back to sleep. So whether that’s 2 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minutes or whatever time you’re comfortable with, you will be helping to discourage extra night feedings by just giving her a little time before going to her.

If cutting feedings cold turkey feels too stressful, then you can slowly wean them by decreasing the amount of ounces (if bottle feeding) or feeding duration (if nursing) at night. This takes longer and still will require you to end it at some point, but may be more comfortable for your family.

There’s no easy and quick way to end those night feedings if it’s become a habit for your child. There will likely be some tears, but if they really are not needing calories during the day, then it doesn’t seem fair for our children to have to wake up so frequently for something that is not necessary for them. In the end they’re the ones who are sacrificing sound, solid sleep, and of course you are too.

December Dreamers

Last month, I mentioned how excited I was for November, particularly Thanksgiving, as it would be our family’s first US Thanksgiving. All I can say, is that I am completely convinced that no one does this wonderful holiday as good as American’s! Deep Fried Turkey, Green Bean Casserole, cornbread with bacon?! So amazingly delicious! And then we get to do it all again in a few weeks!

Obviously, December is a busy time for many families. But did you know it’s also the choice month for many families to sleep coach their children? I know, I had no idea either before I got into this line of work! But it’s true- many families decide to ride the sleep training roller-coaster in the holiday months because they have time off of work and therefore, time to commit to each other and to their child. And actually, this makes a lot of sense to me. If you decide this is the month for you to embark on this particular journey, give yourself a couple of weeks to commit. Yes, that may mean you have to forgo the company work party (pretty good excuse if you need one in my humble opinion!), or skip the insane afternoon line-up to see Santa (I’m sure he’s much more agreeable in the morning anyway), but then, that’s it. You’re done! And is this really not the best gift you can give your whole family for Christmas? Long, restful, dream filled sleep for both you and your child.

For many families, however, the thought of going through this process is completely overwhelming and that’s where I can help. It is a roller coaster ride, and having someone along for that ride to hold you hand, and guide you through it, giving you detailed plans and instructions is nothing to be ashamed of! All of my families see a 100% improvement in their child’s sleep when they work with me and it’s because of that intense follow up support.

So, let this be the month where you do it! Become a dreamer again- I’ll help you get there!

Swaddle Woes

I am often asked, “Is a swaddle a prop? Is it useful? Where do you stand on swaddling?” Swaddling a newborn can be an excellent tool as it mimics the feeling of confinement that was experienced in the womb. Therefore, it can be incredibly comforting to a lot of newborns. I used a swaddle on both of my children and it certainly helped us survive those early weeks of transition

Provided you keep an eye out for overheating (profuse sweating),  swaddling a newborn is an excellent way to help your little one stay calm  in a world that can be downright overwhelming at first! In addition, many parents do find that the swaddle helps there baby sleep better, which is often linked with the fact that it contains their arms. In early stages of infancy, the Moro reflex is present, which is the startle reflex where they throw their arms out uncontrollably and as many of you know,  can wake a sleeping newborn. Having their arms down and being wrapped tightly can help with that. So I say absolutely use it if your little one responds well to the swaddle!

However, like many good things, it can become a prop. If a baby gets used to the idea that they need to be tightly wrapped every time they sleep, then when they kick free, they may wake up and need your help to come back in and re-wrap them. It becomes a love-hate relationship at a certain age where your baby thinks he needs a swaddle but he doesn’t like it that much anymore. Because babies become so experimental with their movements and they like to kick and they like to practice and they like to roll around, they’re most likely going to kick free of the swaddle no matter how tightly you wrap it.

So, what is a great way to break free of swaddling and when should do it? Once you find that you have to have go to your baby at night or intervene during a nap to get them wrapped up again, means that you are well into the ‘prop’ zone. This reminds me of a story of a baby that was still being swaddled at 8 months and mom had sewn four, FOUR, receiving blankets together to make a swaddle big enough for her baby! At that point, there’s no way around it, you’re going to have to ditch the swaddle and go cold turkey.

It’s best if you can avoid this so that you can minimize the tears down the road. A good rule of thumb around the swaddle is, by the third month, start working your way out of it. By that, I mean, leave an arm out at a nap time. And then try to take the swaddle away completely at bedtime while you’re weaning during naps. Bedtime is the easiest time to try this as baby’s sleep drive is the strongest and tend to fall asleep easier with these changes rather then during the day.

So, if you haven’t entered ‘major prop zone’ in the world of swaddling yet but you’re baby is approaching the 3 month mark, start working your way towards swaddle free sleeping. Remember that our children adapt really quickly if we give them the space to do so. If it feels a little terrifying to do this (which is totally okay to feel that way!) try a transitional swaddle product like that Zipadee-Zip to help you on your way.

Dealing with Daylight Savings

Ugh, have I mentioned how much I HATE daylight savings? I still don’t understand why we have this archaic system that serves such little purpose in a post candlelight era! If I’m missing something, please feel free to reach out and tell me!

But the reality is, we all have to deal with it. Before kids I loved the ‘fall back’ one- an extra hour of sleep- sweet! But with kids, it usually means an extra hour of awake time and super early mornings!

Here’s how to deal with it: Starting on Wednesday, move your child’s bedtime back by 15 minutes. So if your child goes to bed at 7pm, make it 7:15pm, On Thursday, move it to 7:30 and so on until you reach 8pm on Saturday. Do the same for naps. That’s it! Pretty simple!

Keep in mind, your child will not likely automatically sleep in an hour later (hence why we make this change in small increments of time) so there may be some over-tiredness over the next few days. Have patience during those extra meltdowns and temper tantrums and know that they will adjust if you’re keeping consistent with the timing and bedtime routine.

Take Back the Night!

I’m so excited that November is here! I mean, October was fantastic in many ways (like super cute kids in their super cute Halloween costumes), but I think I am most excited to be celebrating our first American Thanksgiving dinner this month. I mean, this holiday is the making of legends up in Canada and apparently blows Canadian Thanksgivings out of the water (don’t tell my Mom). But ultimately, it’s all about who you celebrate it with…and maybe a little bit about the food too…

With the approach of two of the most substantial family holidays happening in the next couple of months, families with young children go either into thrive mode or survival mode. And in my experience, sleep plays a big part in how we experience these things. When I’ve been exhausted and my boys were not sleeping well (like last Christmas in the chaos of moving), I haven’t been able to fully enjoy time with friends and family, and that just downright sucks. And not just for me but for my kids too.

I want all of you to have the richest family and friend time over the next couple of months. My wish would be for every single mom, dad and child to be sleeping well so they can wake up refreshed and excited to take on whatever the day brings. The reality is that many of us are under the false assumption that sleep will either magically get better on it’s own or that it can’t get any better than what it currently is and most of the time neither or those assumptions are accurate. Take back your nights so that you can take back your days and be your best family. And of course, I am always here to help you reach whatever your sleep goals may be and beyond.

Sweet dreams,
Adele

Napping at Daycare

Many of my clients are in a situation where they have to go back to work after a few short months of giving birth which just downright sucks for many parents! And then on top of that needing to find a daycare that meets all the needs of the family and a child can feel overwhelming. One of the biggest sources of frustration I hear is that the child is not napping well at daycare, which ultimately impacts their sleep at night and can affects the child’s ability to learn and grow and absorb all that is going on around them. So, I want to give you a few tips on things to look out for when choosing a daycare or care-giving situation for your family.

Tip number one would be to first find out why he’s not sleeping well at daycare. I find that a lot of people just bury their head in the sand around daycare and hope for the best. What I tell everyone to do when you’re interviewing is find out what do they do around naptime.
Are things scheduled? Do they have a quiet place to sleep? Or is it just, “Oh, if they fall asleep in the stroller, fine,” and just going like that? You really need to investigate a little bit and find out if the situation is conducive to what you’ve created at home.

The second tip would be to find out how they actually get your baby to fall asleep. Some daycare’s are great and they’ll do whatever you tell them to do which, in my opinion, should be the way it is. You’re the boss here. You are the parent. You are paying the bill. They should be able to do what you want them to do.

If you come in really clear and say, “Listen, I put this baby down, awake, and he falls asleep on his own. All he needs is a quiet environment and a crib of his own and he’ll do great,” why wouldn’t they want that? That makes their job that much easier.

But some daycare’s, for whatever reason, have certain policies in place where they don’t do that. They wrap the babies or they stroller ride them until they fall asleep and then transfer them.
You need to find out what’s going on to getting your baby to sleep in the first place. If it’s the total opposite of what you’ve worked really hard to create, you need to keep looking. Absolutely.

Tip number three around this is, for some babies, they just don’t sleep as well when they’re out or at daycare or whatever the situation is. None of us do, really. We all sleep better in our own beds, so that makes sense to me.
If you find that they do what you ask and they try really hard and he doesn’t quite sleep as well, if he’s grumpy by six o’clock, then absolutely put him down early. I always say there is no reason why you need to live with a grumpy, tired child to hang on to some magical bedtime that you’ve created in your mind. Six o’clock, you can have him, do the routine. Get him down through 6:30, and that would be fine.

Because he’s not going to daycare every day, then on the days he’s home with you and sleeping great, it’s no problem to hang on to your normal bedtime. We do want the body clock to get in line with a consistent bedtime; but thankfully there is wiggle room around that. It’s not set in stone.

Minimizing the risk of SIDS

There’s no way to sugar coat it: SIDS is truly is a parent’s worst nightmare.

I remember worrying to the point where I got up several times a night to check on my first son while he was sleeping. I was exhausting myself, and finally I had to sit down and come to terms with my fear. It is scary, but I realized I was doing everything I could to create a safe environment so the rest was out of my hands. I had to let it go.

My advice to parents is to do the same. Take the steps that we know can help prevent this terrible tragedy, and then get on with your life and enjoy your time with your new baby instead of being consumed by fear.

What is SIDS?

SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy infant (usually between 1 and 6 months) during sleep with no medical explanation. SIDS is rare, so when fear is taking over, remind yourself of this fact. Approximately 2500 infants die of SIDS every year in the US, but keep in mind that there are over four million babies born in the US in a year. Death rates have dropped by almost half since the Back to Sleep Campaign was launched in 1994 to inform parents of the importance of infants sleeping on their backs.

Research shows that SIDS may be linked with abnormal or delayed development in the brain. These delays may prevent a typical physiological response from happening. For example, if a child who is prone to sleeping on their stomach and moves their head in a way that obstructs their ability to breathe, the increase in carbon dioxide in their brain would typically trigger an arousal so that the child would waken and re-position themselves.

Many risk factors have been pinpointed, and fortunately there are things you can do to significantly reduce the chances of SIDS.

Have a healthy pregnancy. One of the risks can be premature birth and low birth weight, and while these are not always preventable, eating a healthy diet and getting good prenatal care can help.

Don’t allow smoking around your baby. One of the most significant risk factors for SIDS is exposure to cigarette smoke both before and after birth. Studies have shown that when babies breathe cigarette smoke, their risk of SIDS doubles.

Put your baby to sleep on his back. This is extremely important, as researchers have discovered that this cuts the risk by almost 50%.

Breastfeed your baby if you can. Although researchers aren’t sure why, SIDS rates tend to be lower in breastfed babies.

Provide a safe sleeping environment. Avoid putting your baby to sleep on soft surfaces he can sink into such as beanbags, soft bedding, or couches.

Does co-sleeping increase the risk?

There has been a lot of controversy about whether babies who sleep in bed with their parents are at greater risk of SIDS. Experts are divided on the subject, with some claiming the risk is up to five times higher with co-sleeping, and others claiming the opposite is true, and that in fact babies are safer sleeping with their parents.

Personally, I believe the safest place for your baby is in her own crib or bassinet. I also believe this is best in order to encourage great independent sleep skills and set up healthy sleeping habits for your child.  However, if you do plan to co-sleep, please make sure you do it properly. Avoid having piles of blankets and soft pillows around your baby and make sure you never sleep with your baby when you’ve been using drugs or alcohol.

Take these preventative steps and try to keep in mind that SIDS is very rare so you can relax, enjoy parenthood and get some worry-free sleep at night!