Weaning babies sooner onto solids can aid sleep, study suggests

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

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

The researchers found that infants in the EIG group slept significantly longer and woke significantly less frequently than those in the SIG who were given early introduction of solids; the differences peaked at age 6 months.

The study was supported by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Davis Foundation, and the UK National Institute for Health Research.

The new study by King's College, London, and St George's, University of London, analyzed 1,303 babies of three-month-old and then researchers separated these babies into two groups in which one group of babies was depended on their mother's milk or breastfed for a time of six months and another group was provided solid food plus breast milk at the age of three months. The AAP also notes that introducing solid foods to baby before 4 months of age has been linked to excess weight gain and body fat as children grow. The number of times they generally used to wake up during the nights also reduced (dropped from 2.01 up to around 1.74 times/night). However, a previous USA study found that while the majority of babies are being introduced to solids sooner, parents are doing this in place of breast milk or formula, rather than as an addition.

"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.

Good news for exhausted new parents everywhere: A well-fed baby is a sleepier baby.

They also found these benefits were long lasting - with the babies who had started eating earlier still sleeping better at one year of age. The questionnaires recorded the frequency of food consumption and included questions about breastfeeding frequency and duration, as well as questions about sleep duration.

"Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits", Perkin explains to BBC.

Officials, however, insisted mothers should continue to follow the current advice until new guidance is published. This further analysis of data collected during EAT could be of interest to parents, however, there are limitations to the findings. "At the RCPCH, we recommend that mothers should be supported to breastfeed their healthy-term infant exclusively for up to six months, with solid foods not introduced before four months". If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

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". The mothers of the babies in one of the groups were asked to give the infants solids like wheat or white fish before 6 months whereas the mothers of the babies in the other group were asked to feed only breast milk.

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

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