Getting babies to sleep well poses challenges for new and veteran parents alike. In certain situations, herbal sleep remedies may help your little one nod off more quickly. As a safety precaution, avoid using herbal sleep remedies in babies under the age of six months. Regardless of how mild you think an herb may be, always talk with your pediatrician before administering any herbal sleep aid to your baby, even those considered safe for use with adults.
Essential oil extracted from aromatic lavender blooms is often used to treat insomnia and promote sleep for people of all ages, including babies. According to Dr. James Duke, retired U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist and author of “The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook,” phytochemicals in the lavender oil, including linalyl alcohol and linalool, account for the calming effect of this herb.
Use lavender to promote sleep in your baby by adding the essential oils to an evening bath. Although you can put a single drop of the essential oil directly in your baby’s bath water, the easiest -- and safest -- option is to purchase baby bath products that list lavender among the ingredients. Many parents opt to forgo the lavender bath for a lavender-scented massage following bath time, using a baby lotion or baby oil that contains lavender. There is a chance your baby could be allergic to lavender even when used topically. Since an infant can't speak you need to watch for signs of discomfort. Lavender allergy symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting and chills according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If your baby develops any unusual symptoms you need to stop use and seek medical attention immediately.
Herbalists frequently suggest chamomile as a safe herbal sleep aid for babies. Chamomile contains a multitude of naturally produced chemical compounds, but the one primarily responsible for its ability to ease your little one off to dreamland is the flavanoid apigenin, according to Anne McIntyre, Fellow of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and author of “Herbal Treatment of Children.”
This daisy-like plant is available in a variety of forms, including topical ointment, dried flowers, liquid extract and tea leaves. Stick with topical ointment, which is often added to baby lotion -- along with lavender -- or add a few drops of the liquid extract to your baby’s bath water. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of giving your baby a mild chamomile tea, or think about drinking the tea yourself, which passes the sleep-enhancing benefits of chamomile along to your baby if you breastfeed. Watch for signs of chamomile allergy on your baby. Symptoms include itchy skin and skin rashes, breathing problems and throat swelling that could be fatal, according to the American Cancer Society. Seek emergency medical attention if you notice any unusual signs in your baby.
Known for its strong lemony scent, lemon balm, or bee balm, is a distinct herb that belongs to the mint family. The leaves are the part of the plant used for herbal remedies. According to Dr. Duke, chemical compounds in lemon balm, known as terpenes, have a relaxing effect that may help induce sleep. Like chamomile, lemon balm also contains apigenin.
Generally, lemon balm works best when used in combination with other herbs that promote sleep, so look for lotions that also contain chamomile or lavender if you plan to use massage to encourage your baby to sleep. Another common option is to place several drops of lemon balm essential oil in your little one’s bath. Keep an eye out for any sudden changes in your baby's behavior when using lemon balm. If you observe any sign of an allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling or trouble breathing seek emergency medical attention.