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

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

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

One group was encouraged to exclusively breastfeed for around six months.

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. The parents were asked to fill surveys each month until the baby was one year, then every three months until the baby was three years old.

The questionnaires recorded the frequency of food consumption and included questions about breastfeeding frequency and duration, as well as questions about sleep duration.

All the babies were breastfed, but about half started getting certain solid foods in addition to breast milk from age 3 months or somewhat later, but before they were 6 months old.

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.

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

The results, based on data from 1,162 infants and taking into account factors such birth weight and whether children had eczema, reveal babies introduced to solids from three months slept, on average, two hours more a week at the age of six months, than the babies who were only breastfed.

More significantly, the group of babies on early solids reported half the rate of the type of serious sleep problems, such as crying and irritability, which make it less likely that parents are going to get back to sleep.

But they said it was unlikely that the bias would have persisted beyond six months.

"However, the study findings are concerning, especially in light of the obesity epidemic", and the connection between early introduction of solids and food allergies.

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

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.

Current NHS and World Health Organization advice suggests waiting six months before introducing solid foods but these guidelines are under review.

'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.