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Yaroslav Danylchenko/Stocksy United

If you’re a parent of an infant, it might feel like forever since you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Furthermore, you might be tired of well-rested people cheerfully commenting on how exhausted you look.

And no matter what your mom’s friends tell you, it’s not always that easy to sleep when the baby sleeps.

As such, you may wonder whether it’s safe to take melatonin if you’re breastfeeding and want to get some more of those precious Zzz’s. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you that it is. Let’s deep dive into why.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps you sleep and wake. Your pineal gland produces it and releases it into your bloodstream to help regulate your circadian rhythm. Your body tends to produce the highest levels of this hormone when it’s dark.

However, melatonin is also available as a dietary supplement. Many people turn to melatonin supplements to address the fog of jet lag, as well as certain circadian rhythm disorders like delayed sleep-wake phase disorder.

Many people also like to use melatonin to ward off insomnia. That said, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes that there’s not enough evidence to recommend melatonin as a treatment for chronic insomnia.

Because your body naturally produces melatonin, some of it passes into your breast milk. Typically, the concentration of melatonin will be higher in the milk that you produce at night than in the milk you produce during the day.

If you take melatonin supplements, some of that melatonin will also pass into your breast milk.

Breastfeeding has a well-earned reputation for being good for babies’ growth and development. Interestingly, it might also be good for their sleep.

One small study found that breastfed babies slept for longer stretches, and researchers speculated that this may have been due to the melatonin in breast milk.

Nevertheless, note that this benefit was believed to have come from the melatonin that your body naturally produces. It doesn’t indicate that you should supplement with this hormone, especially long term.

The short-term use of melatonin is generally considered safe. However, more research is needed regarding the safety of using it long term.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to consider its safety profile specifically for you and your baby.

According to the Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), some breastfeeding moms have safely used melatonin supplements, and their short-term use in the evening is unlikely to harm your nursing baby.

Still, there’s not enough data to give breastfeeding moms the green light to use melatonin. As the NCCIH cautions, there isn’t a robust body of research about the safety of melatonin use in people who are breastfeeding or pregnant.

You’ll want to discuss melatonin with your healthcare provider before trying it, or consider avoiding it altogether until you wean your baby.

Luckily, melatonin isn’t your only option. There are other ways to get more sleep naturally. Here are a few strategies to try:

  • Exercise regularly. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk — or even a jog. It can help you sleep better (and get back in shape, too!).
  • Stick to a bedtime routine. Babies thrive on routines, and often, so do adults. Find a bedtime routine that works for you and stick with it.
  • Skip the caffeine. Tempted to guzzle caffeine during the day? You might want to reconsider, as doing so may keep you awake at night. Too much may affect baby, too.
  • Turn off the electronics 1 to 2 hours before bed. The blue light from electronics may stimulate your brain and keep you awake. Give yourself some technology-free time before bed to wind down. Try reading a book and listening to some soft music instead.
  • Keep it cool and dark. You might want to turn down the thermostat a few degrees and pull the curtains closed. A cool, dark bedroom may be just the ticket to sleeping better at night.

The melatonin that your body naturally produces may help your baby sleep. And while melatonin supplements seem to be safe for short-term use in the general adult population, we just don’t know for sure how safe they are if you’re breastfeeding.

Before you turn to melatonin supplements to help you get more sleep, talk to your doctor to figure out the best approach for you and your baby.