Babies who start solids sleep better, study finds

Babies who start solids sleep better, study finds

Babies given solid food earlier on in life sleep better, according to a new study.

More than 1300 healthy breastfed three-month-old babies were divided into two groups at random.

Feedback about maternal wellbeing showed that sleep problems were reported less frequently in the group introducing solids before six months.

Researchers from the United Kingdom and U.S. looked at data collected as part of a clinical trial exploring whether early introduction of certain foods could reduce the chance of an infant developing an allergy to them. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Australian government, and others have changed their infant feeding guidelines to reflect the findings, which were published in 2016. The early introduction group also experienced a mean of 9.1% fewer night feedings (95% CI 4%-14%) compared with the standard introduction group.

However, most mothers in Britain already ignore this advice, with 75 per cent introducing solids before five months and 26 per cent saying they did so to stop their babies becoming hungry overnight. The authors also found that the introduction of formula before 6 months of age was minimal for both groups and did not explain the sleep differences.

The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep, said the paper's lead author Gideon Lack with King's College London.

"There was an extremely strong relationship between mother's quality of life and infant sleep, which you anticipate", he added.

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And the better babies sleep, the better their parents' quality of life and mental health.

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. "This is quite a well-designed study to actually answer that particular question", he said.

While the practice did not provide for totally uninterrupted nights of sleep, the study of 1,303 children in England and Wales between 2009 and 2012 showed that babies given solids earlier than now recommended did improve their sleep patterns.

When an infant's frequent nighttime wakeups are causing concern and anxiety, parents can consult their paediatrician about whether starting solid food would be appropriate, Dr Kim said.

An FSA spokesperson said: "We are encouraging all women to stick to existing advice to exclusively breastfeed for around the first six months of age".

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

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