Calm and Relaxed: Natural Sleep Aids for Babies

Essential oils that induce sleep are proven safe and natural sleep aids for babies. When babies have difficulty settling down for the night, a calming bath and infant massage can be of great help. Techniques like swaddling, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin contact also do wonders. Magnesium and melatonin supplements may also be used when doctors prescribe them to older babies.

Sleep problems in babies are behavioral issues that resolve on their own with some help and guidance.

It can take parents a while before babies can establish their bedtime routines. But, imposing a strict rule even in infants can do so much to help them ease through bedtime.

Why do babies have a hard time sleeping?

Babies are born oblivious to day and night. They do not have biological clocks, and the only way for them to get a grasp is by learning through time.

When they are around two to four months of age, they are likely to develop the skill of differentiating mornings and evenings.

This event can be burdensome to many parents deprived of even a short naptime. And as a mother, your mantra is probably “sleep as the baby sleeps.” Which is kind of hard to do when you are up and about with other chores.

Older babies have difficulty sleeping when they have not adjusted to a sleep regimen. It can stem from wrong techniques like overtiring the baby in the hope that he would crash and sleep soundly. However, the opposite may happen.

Overtired babies are stimulated, and they hardly get sound sleep at all.

Common sleep aid for babies

It is not unusual for infants to wake several times through the night for feeding. Their bedtime is not your bedtime, and putting them to sleep can become a real problem.

Sometimes, they would wake up and babble, and it’s just too precious to let pass. You are not alone in having an unintelligible conversation with a baby in the dead of night. 

As nice as it may seem, you can’t do that all night for a long time until your kid is old enough to develop a sleep routine.

Bedtime routines and techniques are proven to work best with infants. And for children older than two, some sleep products may help when bedtime becomes a nagging problem.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a long-known bedtime soothing technique for babies throughout history. The little ones will likely fall asleep in their mom’s bosoms after a filling meal.

The reassuring touch of their mom is said to increase melatonin levels naturally, which aids in sleeping.

Babies produce less melatonin, and they can get most of it from their moms passed through the breastmilk.

Swaddling

A swaddled newborn is laying on his back looking around

Swaddling tames the startle reflex in newborn infants and mimics the comfort in their mom’s tummy. When bundled, they are less likely to thrash and get startled by noises.

Babies also spend more time sleeping in this position. However, swaddling can also be dangerous since it could lead to overheating.

Loose clothing and beddings also risk suffocation. So, remember to follow the safety guidelines in swaddling a baby.

Kangaroo care

According to studies, kangaroo care or skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, the love hormone that reduces stress.

It has a painkilling and calming effect on babies, letting them sleep comfortably. In addition, it is often employed in preterm babies to reduce their agitation and tone down their rapid heartbeat.

The technique is also beneficial for many babies to induce easy sleep.

Establish a bedtime routine

Your baby’s sleep pattern may start when they are about two months of age. But even around that time, they are still confused about day and night.

Parents can help them understand their body clocks by letting them sleep at the same time every night.

Feed, bathe and delimit the kid’s activity a certain hour before bedtime. They will soon understand it as a cue to sleep and help them establish their sleep patterns.

Calming bath and infant massage

Like adults, babies need to de-stress and relax their growing muscles for a good night’s rest.

A lukewarm bath and massage can have a calming effect to lull them to sleep. Make it a habit, and they soon take it as a hint that bedtime is near.

Mom is giving her infant baby a massage after his nighttime bath routine

Nightlight

Blue lights are stimulating and are not ideal for a baby’s room. The best nightlight for inducing light comes from a red LED light.

According to studies, the wavelengths from red light stimulate the production of melatonin. It also reduces the groggy feeling that the baby gets upon waking up.

Natural sleep aid for babies

Are there any products you can use to help put babies to sleep easily? Yes, there are a lot of marketed sleep products, but most of them may not be regulated.

So, while it is tempting to indulge in promising supplements, remember that babies are extra sensitive. They could develop allergies and upset stomachs, or it may hamper their growth and development.

For infants, it is safe to settle with aromatherapy and topical oils. However, if your baby still has difficulty sleeping at two years old, talk to the pediatrician. He may recommend products that are suitable for soothing babies to sleep.

Lavender oil

Lavender essential oil has a calming and sedative effect that promotes sleepiness. It is a mild and gentle herbal extract that is best even for babies.

Use it for a lavender-scented bath or an infant massage to get your baby to doze off quickly.

Chamomile

Chamomile essential oil is also one of the gentlest oil for treating insomnia that is safe for babies. Its soothing effect can relieve colic and help settle a fussy baby.

You can also use it in baby baths and massages. If your baby is over 12 months old, you can give a weak chamomile tea. But, use it with caution, especially if you or other family members have allergies to plants in the daisy family.

Magnesium

A healthy magnesium level in babies facilitates better nutrient absorption, digestion, immunity, and sleep.

Children 1 to 3 years old are recommended to get 80 mg daily. From 4 to 8 years old, the intake should be around 130 mg/day.

Lack of magnesium interferes with sleep, so doctors may recommend it when necessary.

Can I give my baby melatonin?

Melatonin is a sleep hormone also available as a food supplement. People take it for treating insomnia, and it is becoming popular among parents weathering their kid’s sleeplessness.

Melatonin does induce sleep, but it is not always recommended for infants and toddlers.

Sleep problems in infants and toddlers are often behavioral and environmental. It does not point to a substantial lack of hormones like melatonin.

In the womb, babies share melatonin with their moms. But after birth, the supply is cut, and babies produce it, albeit lesser.

Eventually, the baby’s brain will produce enough to help regulate the sleep/wake cycle.

Melatonin is an OTC drug for treating sleep problems in teens and adults. Thus, it is not recommended for a typically healthy and developing baby.

The baby’s pediatrician is the best source of advice on whether your baby needs melatonin supplements.

FAQs

Is melatonin found in food?

If your baby takes solids, you can give him melatonin from various foods. The best foods for sleep are fatty fish, rice, corn, oats, bananas, berries, and milk.

Can I use a diffuser in the baby’s room?

A diffuser with essential oil is safe since it does not use heat and diffuses it uniformly. Use sleep-supportive oil like chamomile and lavender to encourage restful sleep.

Will a pacifier help my baby sleep?

Dummies or pacifiers soothe the baby to contentment through non-nutritive sucking. It is ideal for infants 3 to 18 weeks old to help them settle down to sleep easier without overfeeding.

Takeaway

Babies can be hard to put to bed sometimes. Thus, you need all the help to get them to get a good sleep. This is a normal rite of passage that babies and parents must go through.

Eventually, they will learn to ease through and understand their body clocks and form a habit. Unfortunately, there is no definitive time when babies develop, and they do so differently.

Teaching them a good bedtime habit is a challenge of parenthood that should start soon after your baby is born.

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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