Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Babies Who Start Solid Food Earlier Sleep Better, Study Finds

Babies Who Start Solid Food Earlier Sleep Better, Study Finds

"While the official guidance is that starting solid foods won't make babies more likely to sleep through the night, this study suggests that this advice needs to be re-examined in light of the evidence we have gathered", he added.

The researchers from King's College, London, and the University of London admitted it was possible that mothers giving their babies solids may have responded to their questions in a more positive manner, having expected a positive effect, since many parents already believe that the practice encourages better sleep.

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

94 % of the parents of the 1,303 infants who took part in the study, completed the entire set of questionnaires until three years out of which 608 were from the exclusive breastfeeding group and 607 were from the early introduction of solid food group. 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.

"To our knowledge, we show for the first time in a randomized clinical trial setting that, consistent with the belief of many parents, the early introduction of solids does have a small but significant impact on sleep characteristics", the authors wrote.

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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 has been published in JAMA Pediatrics, one of the world's leading pediatrics journals. The group was split in half, with one group consuming exclusively breastmilk for six months and the other gradually incorporating solid food into their diet along with breastmilk.

"This whole area seems to have been controversial for decades", he noted.

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 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.

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"A full tummy may turn out to be as good for making infants sleepy as it is for us big folk", Grosso.

Professor Lack stressed that mothers should continue to breastfeed their babies until they are at least six months, even if solids are introduced earlier.

Breast milk provides valuable nutrition that babies benefit greatly from in the beginning stages of life.

Reed said the study also left out one important group: babies who, for whatever reason, are formula-fed.

And Reed suggested that "this study could also be identified as subjective".

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The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on babies and feeding.

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