Babies fed with solids early sleep longer, wake less frequently

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Researchers say that women should still follow this piece of advice. The results were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. "Parental quality of life is important but it remains to be seen if introducing solids before 6 months and/or getting small improvements of sleep is the solution". The mothers of the babies in one of the groups were asked to give the infants solids like wheat or white fish before 6 months whereas the mothers of the babies in the other group were asked to feed only breast milk.

Researchers from King's College London and St George's University of London found that giving them solids alongside breast milk from three months, rather than waiting until the recommended six, halved the number with serious sleep problems.

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has similar guidelines and the UK Department of Health and Social Care recommends that solid food should be introduced only when the infant is ready.

"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. 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.

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.

She said, "These are interesting findings from a large randomized controlled trial".

Professor Lack stressed that mothers should continue to breastfeed their babies until they are at least six months, even if solids are introduced earlier.

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'However, the evidence base for the existing advice on exclusive breastfeeding is over ten years old, and is now being reviewed in the United Kingdom by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and in the EU by the European Food Safety Authority.

First foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruits and vegetables such as apple, pear and potato, sweet potato or parsnips.

They also found these benefits were long lasting - with the babies who had started eating earlier still sleeping better at one year of age. Other babies need a little longer to get used to new textures so may prefer smooth or blended foods on a spoon at first. It can take lots of attempts before your baby will accept a new food or texture.

But they said it was unlikely that the bias would have persisted beyond six months.

Plus, the added sleep time associated with solid food may not be as much as some parents think.

Of course, let's not forget the official advice, and that is to breastfeed your child for his six months of life - exclusively. 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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