Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Babies who started solids slept better

Babies who started solids slept better

Feeding babies solid food from the age of just three months old could help them sleep better and improve their long-term health, a major study has found.

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.

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.

It's been proven that the babies from the second group, who were breastfed and were given solid food have slept for longer and have woken up less frequently - overall, their sleep problems were nearly non-existent, in comparison with those babies who were only fed with breast milk.

The results, based on data from 1,162 infants and taking into account factors such birth weight and whether children had eczema, reveal babies introduced to solids from three months slept, on average, two hours more a week at the age of six months, than the babies who were only breastfed.

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

"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. After six months babies in both groups were eating a range of solids. "If the baby's sleeping poorly, the mother's quality of life is very clearly affected".

In the study, in JAMA Pediatrics, giving solids earlier than six months had benefits for mum and baby. 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.

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They also woke less frequently.

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

Professor Mary Fewtrell of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: 'These are interesting findings from a large randomised controlled trial.

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

'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.

But the findings don't mean parents should feel free to give solid food to infants younger than six months to improve their sleep, he added.

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

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