'Babies given solid food sooner sleep better'

Giving babies solid foods early do the cons outweigh the pros

Giving babies solid foods early do the cons outweigh the pros

Co-lead author Dr Michael Perkin, from St George's, University of London, said: 'It is a commonly-held belief among mothers that introducing solids early will help babies sleep better, and our study supports this.

Feedback on maternal wellbeing showed that sleep problems (as defined by the parents), which were significantly associated with maternal quality of life, were reported less frequently in the group introducing solids before six months.

The study, by King's College, London, and St George's, University of London, surveyed 1,303 three-month-olds, and divided them into two groups. The parents who participated in the research completed online questionnaires every month for the following 9 months, and then once in every three months up to three years of age. Participants were randomized to an early introduction group (EIG), which continued to breastfeed while nonallergenic and six allergenic foods were introduced, and a standard introduction group (SIG) that followed British infant feeding guidelines, which recommend avoiding any food consumption for around six months of exclusive breastfeeding.

The study found that babies in the first group who ate solid food plus breast milk slept for a long time period, woke for fewer hours and not have complications of sleep in comparison to those babies in the second group who were breastfed for about six months.

"There is no clear physiological reason why introducing solids foods early would help a baby sleep, especially not for the very small amounts parents were instructed to give in this trial", she said.

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

"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.

There's also the question of whether longer sleep is actually a good thing for babies - although it clearly can be helpful for parents, Kim noted.

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The differences between the groups peaked at six months, with the group fed solids early sleeping for a quarter of an hour longer per night (almost two hours longer per week) and waking less frequently - 1.74 times a night rather than twice a night.

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

She added, "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".

First foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruits and vegetables such as apple, pear and potato, sweet potato or parsnips.

'We expect to see updated recommendations on infant feeding in the not too distant future'. It can take lots of attempts before your baby will accept a new food or texture.

Which type of food should you feed your baby?

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