Solid foods may help infants sleep longer

Grant Boone
July 12, 2018

"But then the baby may have a longer period of rest in the early morning", Spatz explained.

One group was breastfed for six months while the other was given solid foods in addition to breast milk from the age of three months.

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

Those differences peaked at 6 months, with the group introduced to solid foods earlier sleeping for almost 17 minutes longer per night and almost two hours longer per week, and the night waking decreasing from just over two times per night to 1.74 times per night.

"An added benefit (of early introduction of solids) is that it seems to confer better sleep for the children", said Gideon Lack, professor of paediatric allergy at King's College London, and a co-author of the research.

Fellow researcher 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.

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.

More importantly, they were also found to be half as likely to develop sleep problems such as crying and irritability.

Current government advice is that mothers should try to exclusively breastfeed until around six months of age.

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

The type of solid food provided didn't appear to make a difference.

They also woke less frequently.

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

Reed said the study also left out one important group: babies who, for whatever reason, are formula-fed. This further analysis of data collected during EAT could be of interest to parents, however, there are limitations to the findings.

Mary Fewtrell, the nutrition lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says that their group is now recommending mothers to wait until 6 months before starting to feed their children solids.

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. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

'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".

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