For months and months every single night of my life I spent more time trying to get my daughter to fall back to sleep than I spent sleeping. She'd either wake up every 45 minutes all night long so I was constantly leaning over the bed to soothe her back to sleep (when she wasn't co-sleeping she slept in a toddler bed next to ours) or she'd wake up wide awake at 2 in the morning and spend anywhere from 2-4 hours rolling around in our bed wanting to play. I spent hours and hours researching on the internet, reading books and seeking doctors' and other moms' advice about different ways to get babies to sleep better and tried absolutely EVERYTHING...except the popular cry-it-out method which I refuse to try no matter how sleep deprived I become.
I found myself 6 months pregnant with a 17 month old who wouldn't sleep. I was miserable. At this point I realized I'd exhausted my resources about baby sleep solutions and needed to try something else. I decided to just research sleep remedies in general instead of focusing specifically on baby sleep remedies. I came across a bunch of articles that talked about drinking chamomile tea before bed to help soothe and relax you. It sounded natural and safe to me, so I researched if chamomile tea was safe for babies to drink. I found several websites (links posted below) that said not only is chamomile tea a safe and mild sedative that can be used to help calm and relax babies, toddlers and children, but it also soothes teething pain and gas pain and can even be used to treat colic in tiny babies. I decided to give it a try.
I mixed a teaspoon of honey with 8 oz of tea and offered it to Mercedes with her bedtime snack that night. She drank maybe 1-2 oz. Magically, she slept through the night! 8 hours straight, for the first time in her life. I thought it might be a fluke so I tried it again the next night, and the next, and the next...she went from getting 7 hours total of interrupted sleep (constant night wakings or being awake for 2-4 hours in the middle of the night) to sleeping 10-11 hours straight through the night. It's been about 6 weeks since we've incorporated chamomile tea into our bedtime routine, and with the exception of a few very rough teething nights (8 teeth popping through all at once...ouch!) Mercedes consistently sleeps 9-11 hours a night. If she wakes up, she wakes up groggy and will almost always put herself back to sleep, or ask to cuddle me and fall asleep in less than 5 minutes. Both our lives are happier now that neither of us are sleep deprived.
I would not recommend this for a baby under 11 or 12 months. There is a slight chance that babies could have an allergy to chamomile flowers (this is common for people who have seasonal allergies to things like ragweed) and have a reaction. Also there are reasons why small babies NEED to wake up several times a night and God made them that way....their sleep cycles are naturally shorter than adults , they need to eat during the night, they need to sleep lighter to reduce the risk of SIDS, etc. so in my opinion feeding a small baby chamomile tea would not be wise. But once a baby is maturing into a toddler if they are still having sleep issues, especially if those issues are due to a high strung personality, teething pain or gas pain, chamomile tea is a safe, natural and effective remedy.
Note: We have also made chamomile tea popsicles for teething nights...huge success!
I know some of you are shaking your heads as you read this, thinking I could have saved myself from the whole 17 months of no sleep thing if I'd just done what most doctors, books and parents are recommending these days, which is the cry-it-out method. And I want to say that I am incredibly proud of myself for never resorting to that. In my opinion, the cry-it-out method is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to get a baby to sleep through the night, but it is NEVER the best thing for a baby. I love knowing that my daughter sleeps through the night not because I ignored her cries for so many nights in a row that she doesn't bother asking for me anymore, and not because I forced her to "self-soothe" before she was ready, but because she feels safe, secure and loved, and because she knows that I will always be there for her when she needs me. Every night of the first 17 months of her life was a challenge. And every night was worth it knowing that I did the best thing for my baby.
I also want to add that my amazing husband has been 100% supportive of every method I've used to try to get Mercedes to sleep better, and has never complained about the co-sleeping or the many, many nights where he's resorted to sleeping on the couch so that me and Mercedes could sleep better in our big bed. I'm so thankful for what a great daddy he is. Being a mommy is so much easier with his support.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, just a mom doing research and through experience finding out what works best for my kids. And maybe helping out a few other parents along the way! If you are nervous or have doubts about feeding your baby chamomile tea by all means please speak with your doctor or do further research!
Resources I found helpful: