When it was nap time at Full Potential Child Development Center, one staff member started handing out candy meant to ensure the children slept.
As Fox 16 reports, two workers at the day care center in Little Rock, Arkansas, have been fired after a fellow staffer reported seeing melatonin gummies given to children right before nap time.
The day care’s management promptly fired both the worker who handed out the melatonin and a staffer who failed to report the incident. Management then informed the state licensing agency and the child abuse hotline. It also called the parents of children who had been given melatonin to tell them what had happened.
Kerri Miller, whose 2-year-old son was one of the children given melatonin candy, told Fox 16 he’s disappointed in the day care, which he’d previously thought was a “pretty good establishment.” He added:
“We’re a good family. We don’t abuse our kids. The last thing we want is for someone else to abuse our kids.”
In light of the revelations, the Millers are currently looking for a replacement day care for their children. The father told Fox 16 that the melatonin candies raised concerns for him about the judgment and behavior of the staff:
“If somebody’s sneaking that in or bringing that in, who knows what else? They may have passed a background check, but you never truly know what’s in their hearts.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), some parents have turned to melatonin supplements to help their children get a good night’s sleep. The supplement is sold over the counter and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Thus, while most believe it is relatively safe for children in the short term, that comes with several caveats.
Boston Children’s Hospital warns that melatonin should not be used for children under 3, for short-term or situational insomnia (such as anxiety over the start of school or due to the pain of an earache), or if the child’s insomnia has an underlying physical cause (like sleep apnea).
Moreover, over-the-counter melatonin is the synthetic form of a hormone naturally produced by the brain to help one fall asleep. While it may allow children to fall asleep more quickly, it has not been shown to help children stay asleep. The AAP suggests that good bedtime routines and sleep habits are a better way to help a child sleep well than using melatonin.
Finally, there is some concern that melatonin may affect growth and development, especially during puberty. As one specialist explained to NBC Connecticut:
“It’s possibly thought to affect growth, to affect sexual development and puberty and a lot of different effects. It is a hormone and it definitely can have these severe interactions that you might not think of just looking at the pill on the counter and buying it over the counter thinking it is safe.”
The AAP recommends that if parents decide to use melatonin to help their child sleep, they do so only after careful consultation with their child’s pediatrician. The group notes that more research is needed about the safety of melatonin for children and says its use is no substitute for a good bedtime routine.