Feeding Babies Solid Food Earlier May Help Them Sleep Better

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

But the new study, by experts at King's College London and St George's University of London, found that in fact solid food increased sleep time and reduced the number of times a baby woke in the night.

Of course, let's not forget the official advice, and that is to breastfeed your child for his six months of life - exclusively.

For the latest United Kingdom research, the parents of half the children were encouraged to feed their babies solids, such as white fish or wheat, before six months, while the other half were told to stick to breast milk alone until that time.

Researchers then tracked the health and behaviour of all the babies for a period of three years via questionnaires filled out by parents.

Despite the official advice, 75% of British mothers introduced solid food before five months, with a quarter (26%) citing infant night time waking as the reason for their decision, according to the Infant Feeding Survey of 2010.

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

The study found that infants in the group which had solids introduced early slept longer and woke less frequently than those infants that exclusively breastfeed to around six months of age.

The new data come from the Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study, which involved 1,303 infants and was created to investigate whether introducing solid foods earlier might help prevent food allergies.

Gideon Lack, who led the research, said: "Our study supports the widely held views by parents that it is more satiating for a baby to have solids".

"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.

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They also found that families in the standard introduction group were more likely than those in the early introduction group to report a small problem (OR 1.2, 95% CI 1.05-1.41) or a very serious problem (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.22-2.61) with their child's sleep.

Michael Perkin, of the Population Health Research Institute and St George's Hospital, both in London, said results from the new analysis suggest that better sleep could be another benefit of starting solids early.

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 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".

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