Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Feeding Babies Solid Food Earlier May Help Them Sleep Better

Feeding your baby solids early may help them sleep, study suggests 'Babies given solid food sooner sleep better'
Celia Hoffman | 11 July, 2018, 14:51

Babies given solid food plus breast milk from three months sleep better than those who are exclusively breastfed, according to a new study.

A total of 94 per cent (1,225) of them completed the three-year questionnaire, among which 608 from the exclusive breastfeeding group, and 607 from the early introduction of food group. In one group, the babies were exclusively breastfed until they were six months old.

"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.

What they found was that babies introduced to solids earlier slept, on average, for two hours more per week from six months of age.

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. "Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits".

The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep, said the paper's lead author Gideon Lack with King's College London. After six months babies in both groups were eating a range of solids.

And the better babies sleep, the better their parents' quality of life and mental health.

But the new study suggests that advice is flawed - and suggests babies do better if solid food is given earlier, alongside breastmilk.

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They also woke less frequently.

"In a randomized clinical trial, the early introduction of solids into the infant's diet was associated with longer sleep duration, less frequent waking at night, and a reduction in reported very serious sleep problems", the report said.

But he added: 'For healthy, full-term babies who are feeding well at the breast there are no good reasons to delay the feeding of solids, as long as breast feeding continues'.

But they said it was unlikely that the bias would have persisted beyond six months. The difference peaked at six months of age, with the early introduction group sleeping an average of almost 17 minutes longer, and persisted after the infants' first birthday.

"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".

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.

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