Babies should be fed solid food from just 3 MONTHS

In the randomized clinical trial, the parents of around 1,300 3-month-old babies from England and Wales were either asked to follow standard feeding advice and to breastfeed for around 6 months or introduce solid foods to their baby's diet from the age of 3 months.

But the new study, by experts at King's College London and St George's University of London, found that in fact solid food increased sleep time and reduced the number of times a baby woke in the night.

The Government now advises mothers to feed babies exclusively with breastmilk until they are at least six months, and only then gradually introduce solids.

Dr. Clare Llewellyn, a lecturer in behavioral science and health at the United Kingdom -based University College London, who did not work on the research, told Newsweek that because mothers reported how long their babies slept, "we can't be certain if the mothers who introduced solids earlier were biased by the commonly held view that infants who are given solids earlier sleep for longer".

Half of the babies were then gradually given solid foods, while the other half carried on with exclusive breastmilk diets until at least six months.

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. At night, the amount they woke up dropped from twice to 1.74 times on average.

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.

Parents have been told for years to delay introducing solid food, mainly to encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible, but also because scientists thought food introduced earlier could lead to allergies. "Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits".

She said: "These are interesting findings from a large randomised controlled trial".

Mary Fewtrell, a professor and a nutrition lead at the United Kingdom -based Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) who was not involved in the study, commented: "These are interesting findings from a large randomized controlled trial".

'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.

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

First foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables - such as parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear.

Some babies like to start with mashed foods.

Progressing to solid foods sooner could help babies sleep better, according to new research.

The NHS Choices website claims this is a mistake - and solid foods will not make babies more likely to sleep through the night.

More than 1300 healthy breastfed three-month-olds were split randomly into two groups in one the babies were exclusively breastfed until they were six months old - as current guidelines recommend - while children in the other group were breastfed and given solid foods, including peanuts, eggs and wheat, from the age of three months, in addition to breastfeeding.

'We are encouraging all women to stick to existing advice to exclusively breastfeed for around the first six months of age. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.