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Secret Slumbers: Traditional Folk Remedies For Baby Sleep

amber beads

When it comes to helping our little ones to get a good night’s sleep, we have the wonders of modern technology at our fingertips. We can use white noise machines to set them drifting away to the sound of the ocean waves or lilting lullabies, or we can use nightlights that emit a soft reassuring glow. 

One study found that on average, parents lose around 50 hours of sleep during the first year after their baby is born. This can lead to a state of permanent tiredness that can tone down some of the joys of parenthood. Just when you want to be at your best for your baby, you may find that you are frazzled, low on energy and unable to concentrate.

It is no wonder that we go to such lengths to help our little ones get into a good sleep routine. However, some people prefer to eschew the powers of modern technology and rely on tried and tested traditional methods on the journey to the land of nod. 

The wisdom of our ancestors should not be dismissed lightly; it’s been passed down from generation to generation for good reasons! If you prefer to take a more natural approach to soothing a fretful baby to sleep, here are some inspiring suggestions.

Baltic amber necklaces

Baltic amber is a type of hardened resin that is formed from ancient organic matter. It is particularly abundant around the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea in northern Europe, as the resin from thousands of acres of forest trees was carried to the sea in rivers and streams. 

Amber has distinctive warm rich colouring and a translucent quality and is easy to carve, which has made it a popular material for making jewellery and ornaments. However, one of the other traditional uses of raw Baltic amber is for health and healing. This is because it is particularly dense in a substance called succinic acid.

Modern science tells us that succinic acid has antimicrobial and analgesic properties; something that our ancestors instinctively seem to have understood. There are records of amber beads being placed on the foreheads of teething babies to help them sleep in mediaeval European countries, for example.

When the amber is gently warmed such as through human skin contact, the succinic acid is absorbed through the skin and released into the bloodstream in small amounts. This simple but effective remedy is still used today in the form of teething necklaces. They should be used as part of a holistic approach to care and the baby should be supervised at all times.

Traditional lullabies

Today, it may be more common to play your child a recording to help them drop off, but for centuries parents relied on the power of the human voice. There are many traditional lullabies that weave together language, rhythm, and the unique culture of origin into mesmerising melodies. 

Ultimately, the power of technology will never be able to wholly replace the comforting sound and presence of a human being, and such moments can lay the foundation for a timeless bond between parent and child.

Herbal remedies

The power of plants has long been used as a sleep remedy. While it’s not recommended to give babies herbal brews to drink, many herbs have powerful aromas that can weave their subtle magic on a restless baby. For example, some mothers would dab a few drops of chamomile tea on a baby’s pillow or forehead, or add it to their bath.

Lavender also has a soothing fragrance that has been scientifically proven to help ease stressful feelings and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. The power of smell is the only sense that is fully functional at birth, because it develops while babies are still in the womb. Therefore smell is extremely evocative and emotive for infants.

Boiled lettuce leaves

This might sound rather strange, but one traditional infant sleep remedy from South America is boiled lettuce leaves. The leaves are boiled in water and strained and left to cool with a spoonful of sugar, and then given to children as a bedtime snack.

It is thought to be effective because some species of lettuce contains a nutrient called lactucarium. This is a milky fluid that is secreted from the stems, and it has mild analgesic and sedative properties. However, be aware that it might have unwanted side effects so it should not be used without medical advice.