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

Henrietta Strickland
July 11, 2018

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 carried out in Britain suggests.

The study, by King's College, London, and St George's, University of London, surveyed 1,303 three-month-olds, and divided them into two groups.

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".

Fruits such as mashed banana are feared to give a baby an early sweet tooth and make them less open to trying vegetables later on.

The study showed that infants in the group who ate solids as well as breast milk slept longer, woke less frequently and had far fewer serious sleep problems than those who were exclusively breastfed until about six months.

Official advice is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life. Infants who started solids early also woke up about 9% less often.

It comes after a milestone study by Professor Lack's team two years ago found allergies are actually less likely if certain foods - particularly peanut butter - are given to babies from an early life.

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

Professor Lack said decisions about whether to change the United Kingdom recommendations should stay in the hands of officials, but added: 'Guidelines are already changing around the world'.

However Professor Amy Brown of Swansea University, whose research includes weaning of babies, said the benefits revealed by the study were "minimal" in real-world terms, and that other research showed no rewards for early introduction of solids.

'We found a small but significant increase in sleep duration and less frequent waking at night.

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. Researchers say that women should still follow this piece of advice.

The NHS and World Health Organization now advise to wait until around six months before introducing solid foods, but these guidelines are now under review.

She said: "These are interesting findings from a large randomised controlled trial".

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.

Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, co-author of the research Gideon Lack acknowledged that it's generally advised parents wait until six months to introduce solids. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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