Babies who eat solid foods earlier sleep better, study finds

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 suggests

Babies who are given solid food after three months are able to sleep better than those who stick with an exclusively breastmilk diet after that time, a new study suggests.

The World Health Organization recommends that parents wait until the age of six months to give their infants solid foods to ensure they get the most benefit from the nutrients found in breast milk or formula.

Infants introduced to solid foods at an earlier age slept longer through the night, while infants with later introduction to solid food were more likely to have sleep problems, researchers found.

Prof Gideon Lack from King's College, London, said: "The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep".

The NHS Choices website says: "Starting solid food won't make your baby any more likely to sleep through the night".

Child food experts at University College London advised parents to choose bitter vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or cauliflower as their baby's first solid food.

The early solid food eaters overall also had about 9 percent fewer night feedings.

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.

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The new data come from the EAT study, which involved 1,303 infants and was created to investigate whether introducing solid foods earlier might help prevent food allergies.

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

His team tracked 1,300 babies who had each been exlusively breastfed until three months. After six months babies in both groups were eating a range of solids.

Parents' perceptions of a sleep problem with their child were correlated with maternal and global sleep quality of life, and perception of infant sleep problems correlated with nighttime sleep duration and night waking frequency, the authors wrote.

A Food Standards Agency spokesman said: 'This further analysis. could be of interest to parents, however, there are limitations to the findings. If there is any doubt about what's best for your baby, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional'.

'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.

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.

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

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