Babies Given Solid Foods Sooner May Sleep Better, Study Shows

Modesto Morganelli
Luglio 10, 2018

Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, Lack and a team of researchers behind the study say while there is a common belief that eating solid food helps a baby to sleep better - with one NHS survey suggesting most mothers give their child food before five months - many sources of advice for new parents, including the NHS and the National Childbirth Trust, recommend that parents should wait until six months before introducing solids.

Introducing solid food to babies before they reach six months might offer a small improvement to their sleep, new research suggests.

The Government now advises mothers to feed babies exclusively with breastmilk until they are at least six months, and only then gradually introduce solids.

"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.

The parents completed online questionnaires monthly until their baby was 12 months old, and then every three months until the babies were 3 years old. They also woke around two fewer times at night per week at six months and had just over 9% fewer incidents of waking up during the night over the course of the study.

Brown urged caution, noting that no difference in waking was seen until after five months, despite one group being introduced to solids from three months, and that self-report of infant sleep by exhausted parents was unlikely to be precise.

Co author of the study Dr Michael Perkin, from St George's, University of London, pointed out that small differences generated large benefits for parents.

More significantly, the group of babies on early solids reported half the rate of the type of serious sleep problems, such as crying and irritability, which make it less likely that parents are going to get back to sleep.

A Food Standards Agency spokesman said: 'This further analysis. could be of interest to parents, however, there are limitations to the findings.

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.

"At the RCPCH, we recommend that mothers should be supported to breastfeed their healthy-term infant exclusively for up to six months, with solid foods not introduced before four months".

"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".

"We expect to see updated recommendations on infant feeding in the not too distant future", she said.

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

A baby's first food should not be mashed banana or rice, with parents advised to wean their children on broccoli.

Progressing to solid foods sooner could help babies sleep better, according to new research. As part of the study the team also looked the impact on other measures, including growth and sleep.

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".

What to feed babies in the first six months of life can be controversial, with many mothers feeling judged if they are unable to breastfeed successfully, and guilty if they introduce bottles or solids. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

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