Jenn’s Guide to Melatonin

One of the questions I get all the time is ‘You give melatonin to V right?  I think I want to start giving it to my kid, but I don’t know how much.”

I decided to put together a little FAQ, which turned into a bit of a novel.  Sorry.

But here is:

Jenn’s Guide to Melatonin

Now… first things first.

I am not a doctor, I only play one on Twitter.  This information only comes from my own personal experience and research.  It should NOT take the place of medical advice from your doctor or pediatrician.  Melatonin, like any drug, can have adverse effects, and as such, should be used carefully.  If you are considering using melatonin for your child, I strongly suggest consulting your child’s doctor or pediatrician to see if it’s right for them.

OK.  Now that’s out of the way.

What is melatonin?
Melatonin occurs naturally in your body.  It’s the magical substance that helps your body fall asleep by making you drowsy and lowering your body temperature.

So why would you need to take it in pill form if your body is already producing it?
There have been studies that prove that children on the autism spectrum don’t produce as much melatonin as normal.

It’s been my personal experience that this extends to a lot of kids with neurological or central nervous system impairments, as well.

These kids seem to fall into cyclical sleep patterns. I’ll use Vista as a specific example of what I mean by cyclical sleep.

At the beginning of her cycle she sleep like any normal kid.  The further she gets into her sleep cycle, the less she sleeps, until, at the peak of it, she might sleep an hour or two a night.  The rest of the time she’s wide awake.  Eventually her body becomes so exhausted that it forces her to start sleeping more and more, until we’re back at the beginning of the sleep cycle again.

One full sleep cycle for Vista lasts about 2 months.  So she might go without sleep for weeks at a time.

I, on the other hand, cannot go without sleep for weeks at a time.  I turn into a zombie.  (true fact – the zombie apocalypse is going to be caused by exhausted parents)

So, this is when we turned to our pediatrician crying “we can’t do this anymore *sob*” and he told us that
a) we were silly for waiting so long to talk to him and
b) to put her on melatonin, stat, or he would call the loony bin and tell them I was on my way in

How do I know if melatonin is right for my child?
Melatonin is not a cure all pill.  And it is certainly not right for every kid.

If your kid throws a temper tantrum every night when they go to bed, this is a behavioral problem.  Melatonin will not magically fix the issue.

If your kid likes to get up super early every morning, I can guarantee you that melatonin will not fix this issue (personal experience speaking here).

If, however, your kid just doesn’t seem able to sleep at night, or wakes repeatedly, then melatonin might help.

Melatonin is not meant for newborns or very young children.  Every parent with a baby is sleep deprived.  It’s a right of passage.  Get used to it.

By the time your child is 2 or 3yrs old, though, they should definitely be sleeping a full 8-10+ hours.

This is where I recommend you talk to your pediatrician/doctor, though, to see if they think this is a behavioral issue or a possible melatonin deficiency.

OK, my doc recommended melatonin.  How much do I give?
Again, I would talk to your doctor, but here is my personal experience with dosing…

Start slow and work your way up.  I cannot stress this enough.  Do not slam your kid onto a high dose of melatonin, because this is definitely a case where more does not equal better.

Too much melatonin can cause vivid, horrible, night terrors.  These will keep you up all night and can make kids afraid to sleep.  So, I say again – start at a low dose and SLOWLY work your way up.

Most melatonin comes in 3mg doses, as that is a ‘typical’ adult dose.  Check with your health food store to see if they care a 1mg dose for kids.  This will make it much easier to get an accurate dosage.

There are different forms that melatonin comes in – capsules, sub-lingual (pills that you put under your tongue), and strips (that you put on the tongue that melt).  We usually use the capsules and open them into a cup of milk that Vista takes half an hour before bedtime.

Start with 1mg.  Try this for a week, minimum.  Give it time to work.

If 1mg isn’t working, go up to 2mg.  Stay there for a week or two to see if it helps.

Continue like this, slowly increasing the dose, 1mg at a time, until it starts working.

How will I know if it’s working?
Oh, you’ll know.

The first morning you wake up and realize you got to sleep through the entire night rather than getting up with your kid for the first time in who knows how long?  Yeah, that’s when.

What’s the highest dose I can give my child?
The generally accepted answer to that is 9mg/night.  However, I don’t know anyone who has ever needed to give their child anywhere close to that.

Most people I know eventually settle in the 2-4mg range with their kids.

Do I have to give it every night?  How long should they be on it?
There’s no easy answer to this as it depends on your child.

First off, yes, you need to give it every night, while you’re using it.  And you should leave them on it a week or two, once you find the dose that works.

Sometimes that week or two is all kids need to reset their sleep clocks and they start sleeping through the night on their own.

You can try backing off the dose and see if the sleep problems come back.  If they do, return to the dose that was working.

Vista has been on melatonin for over a year and a half.  We have tried taking her off it, and the sleep issues returned, so her pediatrician recommended we leave her on it for the foreseeable future.

Over the past year and a half we have slowly increased her dose.  She was on 3mg for quite a while.  It’s only in the past few months that, due to a change in medication, we’ve had to bump her up to 4.5mg/night.  Now that her meds have been properly adjusted, we will probably try and take her back down to 3mg.

Will melatonin make my kid drowsy during the day?  Should I give it to them for naps?
No and definitely NO!

I have used melatonin myself.  You do not feel drowsy or ‘hung over’ like you can with sleeping pills.

Melatonin is meant for use at night.  It will not help your children nap and can actually throw off their natural sleep rhythms if you try and use it for that.

When do I give it to my child?
You want to give it to them half an hour to an hour before you want them to go to bed.   This gives it time to work.

This does not mean however, within an hour your kid is going to magically collapse in a pile of sugar plum dreams.

Unlike sleeping pills, melatonin does not put you to sleep, it merely prepares your body to sleep.

There have been times that we give Vista her melatonin at 7:30pm and she still ends up being awake until 9:30pm or later.

Where it does help is that, once your child finally decides to settle down to sleep, they’ll drift off faster and stay asleep.

Is there anything else I should know before giving my child melatonin or taking it myself?
Melatonin, like any drug, can cause adverse effects in people with health issues.  Always check with your doctor before starting to take it.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should definitely not take melatonin.

A site I find to be a good resource is http://melatonin.com.  They have information on dosing, cautions, and research.

If there’s anything you think I’ve missed, or information that you feel is incorrect, please let me know.


One of the weird brain things Vista has going on is called ‘Partial Agenesis Corpus Callosum’ (Partial ACC). It’s sometimes called ‘split-brain syndrome’. Your corpus callosum is what connects the right and left side of your brain and lets them talk to each other. Vista’s, however, isn’t properly formed. And so it is to blame for some of her issues with impulse control, recognizing emotions, and decision making.

The other day, a blog I read that shares stories of people living with ACC linked to an interesting video on split-brain.

There’s a part where the parents talk about having to learn that getting mad and yelling at their child is a waste of time and effort, which made me laugh. This is so true of Vista. You can get upset with her and she’ll just stand there with a blank look on her face, or say something random and walk away. That would be the point where I head for the liquor cabinet.

Watching the video, though, did give me some other insight on how to get Vista into some sort of routine.

As much as she hates leaving an activity, once she’s stuck into it, she’s not a strict routine type kid.  She’s much more like her father, in that regard.  They’re both free spirits.  And it drives me crazy.  Seriously.  I’m the person who lives and dies by my calendar.  I don’t do well with unstructured.

I’ve been struggling to find a happy medium with Vista.  Something that’s easy for her to grasp and makes sense to her little brain and allows us a tiny bit of structure to the days.  Also something that will help reduce the battles for simple everyday things like brushing teeth, getting dressed, and going to bed.

So, this is what I came up with.

A ‘chore chart’.  Right now it’s meant to help her with basic life skills.  As she gets older, it will evolve to include more ‘chore’ based items like making her bed, or helping with dishes.  But for right now, we’ll start with the simple stuff.  Heh.

chorechart Routine

It’s made with a piece of white poster board, stuck with magnets to the fridge. Each chore is a piece of paper glued to poster board then mounted on magnets, so we can switch or add chores and tasks easily.
Chore Routine

For the actual success/failure of whether the item was completed, I wanted something meaningful that a 3yr old could understand. Check marks are random. She’s just not going to get that. And stickers really don’t mean much to her either. So what I settled on was circles of yellow and red paper (I used a circle craft punch to quickly make them) and drew a happy face / sad face on them. We then use small magnets (which make up a nose on the faces) to stick them onto the board. I did it this way, rather than gluing each circle onto a magnet, because it’s easier to store flat pieces of paper when they’re not in use. (that’s a Canadian quarter to give you an idea of size)

happy sad Routine

The way we’re working this is if she goes the full day with 1 or less sad face, then she gets a treat from the treat basket (which is an old easter basket filled with random dollar store items).  And so far she seems to be grasping the concept very well.  She’s asking for almost everything she does, if that means she gets a happy face on her chart.  And the mere mention of a sad face was enough to stop a tantrum in it’s tracks this morning.

The whole thing cost me about $5 in dollar store supplies to make.  Cheap and easy, just like me.  Wait…what?

For those who want to make their own, here’s the chore items you can print out.  It’s done in a Word doc and the pictures are simple clipart.
PDF version:  Chorelist PDF
Word version:  Chorelist MS Word doc

*just a tip – I glued the whole chore list page to poster board and then cut it out.  Much easier than trying to paste little strips of paper onto poster board.

** And another tip – this is a kids chore chart.  Stop trying to make it perfect.  They’re not going to notice if the lines aren’t exactly even or the faces are a little bit off.

Mangwani Mpulele

When my mother was young, she grew up in a home where only French was spoken. As she got older, and learned English, and they moved to English speaking communities, she slowly stopped speaking French all together. These days she can understand it, if spoken to, but chooses not to speak it as it takes her too long to formulate the sentences (and she finds her English accent, when she speaks French, embarrassing).

Despite her being anglified, my childhood was filled with French songs, as those are the ones she recalled from her youth. I grew up singing Frère Jacques, Alouette, and Au clair de la lune. Although I really had no idea what I was saying, or singing, they were still my favorite songs.

And now that I have a daughter, I sing the same French songs to her. Partly because they’re the songs I was taught as a child, but also because Vista has a very peculiar trait.

She is very particular about ownership. Everything must have an owner. My house, your car, her bike… and that applies to songs.

I was no longer allowed to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ after she heard the Wiggles sing it. “No mama, that’s the Wiggles song,” whenever I tried to sing it to her. The same thing happened when she heard Barney sing “Mr. Sun”. It became Barney’s song, and I was no longer allowed to sing it in her hearing.

And so my challenge has been to find songs she likes, and will tolerate me to sing, that have no ‘owners’.

I’ve been forced to reach back to my days around Girl Guide campfires, and pluck the obscures songs that she’ll never hear on the radio or TV.  (Lucky for her, I have the strange talent of being able to remember almost every song I was taught to sing as a kid.)

Her current favorite is an African song called “Mangwani Mpulele”.

Here’s a really bad audio clip of me singing it.
Warning:  I’m not a singer.  I’ve never claimed to be.  I don’t even sing Karaoke.  Listen at your own risk.

It’s what I sing to her most nights when she wants a song to fall asleep to.  (Yeah, a white redneck girl singing and African tribal song.  Weird, n’est pas?)

It does make me wonder, though, what sorts of songs she’ll sing to her children when she’s older.

If you want the password…

… for the previous post, please contact me. For security reasons, a password was required.

**UPDATE** I’m an idiot and accidentally tweeted out the password.  It was deleted before anyone saw, but I can’t take the chance of it showing up in a search somewhere, so I’m having to change it.  If you had it before and need the new one, just let me know.  I’m going to make myself a stiff drink now.

Thank you for understanding.


I’ll Have What She’s Having…

I was chatting with Karen on Twitter last night when she told me about entering a sponsorship opportunity, hosted by An Island Life and on Barefoot Mommies, for BlogHer.

My jaw dropped at the amount. Energizer is offering $2000 sponsorship for BlogHer expenses. OMG. This is the stuff that dreams are made of!

My first thought was ‘Thanks Karen. Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into,” because, of course, now I have to enter it. That’s a lot of money when it comes to a conference on the other side of the continent and in another country. I know there’s no place like home, but who doesn’t want to experience NYC at least once?

So when I woke up this morning, I looked in the mirror and asked myself ‘Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”. Maybe.

But then again, what do I have to lose? I wish I had unlimited everything at my disposal, but it’s not like I’m Bond….James Bond or anything. And in lieu of a sports car with guns in it, $2000 would be awesome.

It would certainly help out more than just me. It’s not like I’m being greedy, even though greed, for lack of a better word, is good. $2000 would cover the room costs and give my three roomies some extra spending money too. Just think of how many martini’s $2K would buy (Shaken, not stirred, of course)

I could also use some of that money to buy a couple of Energizer Smart Chargers.  Because 4 people in a room, + 4 laptops, +4 cameras, + 4 cell phones, + 4 of a lot of other things = a lot of battery power.

But then I realized, Houston, we have a problem. I have to come up with something interesting enough to grab their attention.

I’m not the type to jump up and down on a couch screaming ‘show me the money!

I really don’t have any special amazing talents. It’s not like I see dead people (that’s Vista’s forte).

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

So, I’m really hoping An Island Life and on Barefoot Mommies read this post and immediately think “You had me at ‘hello’”.

But even if I don’t win, we’ll always have Paris NYC

**I’ve hate asking you guys to retweet anything for me, but I’m asking now, cause, OMG, $2000!  Could you let Kailani and BarefootMomma know that they should pick me for one of the sponsorship opportunities and use the hashtag #energizer?  I’ll love you forever!  xoxo**

 Ill Have What Shes Having...

The One Where The Roll Of Toilet Paper Turns Into A Polar Bear

I’m not purposely ignoring my blog. I’ve been honestly busy. Not in a ‘woe is me, I shant have a moment to myself’ sort of way. More of a ‘GoDaddy hosting sucks balls and half the people I know have been hacked so I’ve been spending hours restoring blogs’ sort of way.

But there’s been lots of stuff going on that I want to write about.

Like we had Vista’s first appointment with the preschool treatment program at the Children’s hospital. And the team of specialists (OT, PT, Speech, Psychology) rock. I was seriously impressed. And that takes a lot. They get her and immediately zeroed in on her weak points and we’ll find out this week what their planned therapy strategy is going to be for the next couple months. This makes me oddly giddy to have a great group of people working with her.

And since we’ve had Vista on her anti-seizure meds, she’s been talking more and more. And the results of that? Freakin hilarious!

Conversations with Vista:

Vista: “My boobies are up here and mommy’s boobies are down there”

Me:  “uhhhh… did I seriously just get dissed by a two year old?”

Vista: “What happened to my leaf??

Me:  “I don’t know.  What?”  (having no idea what she’s talking about)

Vista: “It turned into a wolf.”  *big pout*

Me:  “…….”

Vista:  *pointing to a roll of toilet paper*  “POP-A-WEASEL!”  (aka ‘pop goes the weasel.  aka Vista’s version of abracadabra)

Me:  “…….”

Vista:  “There!  Now it’s a polar bear.”

Me:  “……”

Vista:  “Wahhhhhhhh wahhhhhhhh”  *fake crying*

Me:  *immitating her because I’m really mature like that*  “Wahhhhh wahhhhh”

Vista:  “No!  You can’t cry!!  I want to cry!!”

Me: “……”

Yeah, life is a barrel of laughs around here.  Because, really?  If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Where’s The Line?

Mama bear instinct. Most mothers have it. That need to protect, not only our own children, but any child we see being neglected or abused.

I used to be very vocal in my judgment of parents who weren’t, in my view, perfect.

That, of course, would be before I had a child with special needs.

And let me digress for a moment and say something about those two words ‘special needs’. I’ve always hesitated to use them in regard to Vista. Outwardly she appears normal. Most people passing her on the street would never guess she’s anything but. She looks just like your kid, and your kid, and yours. Only she’s not.

Did you spend an hour this morning laying in bed with your child, not cuddling them, but restraining them while they shrieked and screamed and fought to get their hands free so they could punch and hit and attack you, as you softly talked and sang to them, trying to refocus their attention and calm them down? No? I did. But you’d never know that to look at my daughter, happily playing an hour later, while I still struggled to suppress the anger and frustration I felt over the incident. That was before 7am this morning. And that is not an unusual way to start or end my days. But, she looks normal.

And that exasperation may have come through as I snapped at her as she dawdled to the truck, fiddling with her umbrella in the rain, this morning. “I’m wet, you’re wet, group starts in 10 minutes… LET’S GO!”

But all you would have seen is me snap at her. And I’m sure the words “What a bitch” would have flitted through your mind as you walk past and felt sorry for my daughter at having such a horrible mother. You wouldn’t have noticed the long sleeve shirt and jeans I was wearing to cover the bruises left from her lashing out yet again. Nor would you have noticed the cap I was wearing to hide the fact the hour spent restraining her had used up the spare moments I might have had to grab a shower or even actually run a brush through my hair.

And yet, there you would have stood in judgment because that mama bear instinct is to protect the child…not the parent.

That’s why I struggle when I read posts like this one that Janna at The Adventure of Motherhood wrote on the BlogHer site.

I don’t condone the actions of the parent.  Did she cross over that invisible line of what is acceptable in private, never mind public?  Yes, probably.

But consider this, if you will.  Every mother out there has had one of those days where they’re at their wits end with their children.  Where they just want to escape and can’t handle one more second of the whining/fighting/arguing/tantrums/crying/insert your child’s favorite button-pushing behavior here.  Now imagine having those days EVERY DAY FOR MONTHS ON END.  That can be what having a special need child is like sometimes.  At some point, if you don’t have the supports in place to help you deal with this sort of stuff (like I’m lucky that we do), you will lose it.  And sometimes that happens in public.

I’m not saying the child in this story Janna wrote about was special needs.  I don’t know.  I have no idea what issues the mother might be dealing with.  Because Janna’s instinct was to protect the child and say “I can do this better”.

Rather than approach the mom with an accusatory sentence of “I don’t think you should talk that way to your son,”  as most of us (myself included) instinctually would, why not go up and say “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Find out what is going on that has brought them to the point that they have completely lost it in public.

And they may not want your help, and there may be nothing you can do.

But never think you can do it better until you know what’s really going on and have walked a mile in their shoes.

We are so quick to judge and hate each other.  Would it be so bad to hold out a hand instead and say “I understand.  Let me help”?

Follow Friday – Book Bitches

    I have always had my nose stuck in a book.  There’s many a picture of me, from when I was a kid, sitting at a campground during summer holidays curled up with my latest novel, ignoring the beautiful outdoors.

    And truth be told, I’m still the same way.  I love books.  It’s the one thing I don’t get nearly enough time for anymore. I would happily sit all day and read book after book after book if I could.  Yeah, I’m a loser and I’m OK with that.  I’m also one giant ball of useless knowledge, so, word of advice – don’t talk to me unless you want to be irritated by random facts.

    So with in mind, here are the lovely ladies I think you should rush off and talk to:

    Now it’s your turn. If you’d like to play along , then link up, and if you’re so inclined, grab a badge.

    Followfriday Follow Friday   Book Bitches

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