Feeding Babies Solid Food Earlier May Help Them Sleep Better

Feeding your baby solids early may help them sleep, study suggests

The study found that infants in the group which had solids introduced early slept longer and woke less frequently than those infants that exclusively breastfeed to around six months of age.

Researchers from King's College London and St George's University of London studied 1,303 exclusively breastfed three-month-olds from England and Wales and divided them into two groups.

Study leader Professor Gideon Lack of King's College London said: 'The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep.

"We believe the most likely explanation for our findings of improved sleep is that that these babies are less hungry" said Lack, adding that solid foods might mean less regurgitation or greater feelings of being full.

The team did note that the study did not use sensors to monitor infants' sleep and that parents might have misreported sleeping behaviour because they had previously encountered the idea that babies fed solid foods earlier sleep better.

Brown urged caution, noting that no difference in waking was seen until after five months, despite one group being introduced to solids from three months, and that self-report of infant sleep by exhausted parents was unlikely to be precise.

Those babies given solid foods slept for 16.6 minutes longer and woke 13 per cent less often in the night than those who were kept on just breastmilk. After six months babies in both groups were eating a range of solids.

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Some babies like to start with mashed foods.

That report knocked away one of the main justifications for delayed introduction of solids, and past year health authorities in the USA changed their guidance by recommending the most at-risk children should be given peanuts as early as four months. But this study will certainly spark a larger debate on when to introduce solids and hopefully lead to further research to help tease it out.

"Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits", says Dr. Michael Perkin, a co-author of the study from St George's, University of London.

The NHS and World Health Organization now advise to wait until around six months before introducing solid foods, but these guidelines are now under review.

Responding to the study, Prof Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, pointed out that guidelines for infant feeding are now being reviewed.

"However, the evidence base for the existing advice on exclusive breastfeeding is over 10 years old, and is now being reviewed in the United Kingdom by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition".

For now, women are still being encouraged to wait six months before giving their baby solid foods, but given the research, that's advice we might see change in the future. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

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