How to get baby to sleep more: Feed solids early, study suggests

Babies who are given solid foods as well as breast milk from the age of three months show signs of sleeping better than infants fed only with milk until they are six months old a new study suggests

Babies who are given solid foods as well as breast milk from the age of three months show signs of sleeping better than infants fed only with milk until they are six months old a new study suggests

More than 1300 healthy breastfed three-month-olds were split randomly into two groups in one the babies were exclusively breastfed until they were six months old - as current guidelines recommend - while children in the other group were breastfed and given solid foods, including peanuts, eggs and wheat, from the age of three months, in addition to breastfeeding.

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. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, British health officials and many other childcare experts around the globe advise mothers to try to exclusively breastfeed babies up to age 6 months. But the authors noted that the study also included a detailed validated sleep questionnaire that was completed on 15 occasions for the child from 3 months to 3 years.

In the study, researchers looked at 1,303 infants from when they were three months old to three years.

Babies who are given solid food after three months are able to sleep better than those who stick with an exclusively breastmilk diet after that time, a new study suggests.

The team did note that the study did not use sensors to monitor infants' sleep and that parents might have misreported sleeping behaviour because they had previously encountered the idea that babies fed solid foods earlier sleep better.

Prof Gideon Lack from King's College, London, said: "The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep".

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Do you think solids help a baby to sleep better?

What they found was that babies introduced to solids earlier slept, on average, for two hours more per week from six months of age.

"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.

Dr Clare Llewellyn and Dr Hayley Syrad, who have researched baby eating habits for over a decade, said the first foods introduced to children at around six months should be bitter vegetables, as these are the foods most commonly disliked by children.

However he also stated that he believed "the most likely explanation for our findings of improved sleep is that that these babies are less hungry".

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

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