Eating solid foods earlier promotes better sleep in babies

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

Parents then filled in online questionnaires every month until their baby was 12 months old, and then every 3 months until they were three years old. As part of the study the team also looked the impact on other measures, including growth and sleep.

Babies who start on solids at three months sleep better than infants exclusively breastfed until six months of age, according to a new analysis of clinical trial data.

"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. Parents of exclusively breastfed babies were more likely to perceive their babies as having sleep problems, researchers found.

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.

What they found was that babies introduced to solids earlier slept, on average, for two hours more per week from six months of age.

Gideon Lack, who led the research, said: "Our study supports the widely held views by parents that it is more satiating for a baby to have solids".

National Health Service and National Childhood Trust seem to dispute this claim, with the latter citing a study that found no difference in total sleeping time at 9 months between infants who had solid foods introduced before and after age 6 months.

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"However, the study findings are concerning, especially in light of the obesity epidemic", and the connection between early introduction of solids and food allergies. The group was split in half, with one group consuming exclusively breastmilk for six months and the other gradually incorporating solid food into their diet along with breastmilk.

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

Officials, however, insisted mothers should continue to follow the current advice until new guidance is published.

At the six month mark, both groups of children were eating solid foods.

Despite the official piece of advice, about 75% of mothers gave solid food to their babies before five months - 26% of the babies were waking up at night frequently because of this reason.

'However, the evidence base for the existing advice on exclusive breastfeeding is over ten years old, and is now being reviewed in the United Kingdom by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and in the EU by the European Food Safety Authority. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

'We expect to see updated recommendations on infant feeding in the not too distant future'.

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