Giving Babies Solid Foods Sooner Could Help Improve Their Sleep

Modesto Morganelli
Luglio 12, 2018

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.

"When it comes to the recommendations for mothers and their children, I think it's still important to try to aim for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months", he added. 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. 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.

His team tracked 1,300 babies who had each been exlusively breastfed until three months.

The British study found that introducing solid food to babies younger than six months was associated with babies sleeping an average of about seven minutes more a night than their exclusively breastfed peers, peaking at nearly 17 minutes more a night at age 6 months.

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

Lack said a crucial finding is that parents who were asked to exclusively breastfeed had nearly twice the odds of reporting a serious problem with their child's sleep than those who were asked to introduce their babies to solid food early.

"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 effect on sleep characteristics", said study author Gideon Lack, a pediatric allergy professor with King's College London, and colleagues. However, a previous US study found that while the majority of babies are being introduced to solids sooner, parents are doing this in place of breast milk or formula, rather than as an addition.

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.

Official advice is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life.

They were also far less likely to suffer serious sleep disorders.

Professor Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead the the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) underlined that infant feeding was being reviewed.

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