Babies fed with solids early sleep longer, wake less frequently

Giving babies solid foods early do the cons outweigh the pros

The study, by King's College, London, and St George's, University of London, surveyed 1,303 three-month-olds, and divided them into two groups. Parents of exclusively breastfed babies were more likely to perceive their babies as having sleep problems, researchers found.

In the other group, the children were breastfed AND given some solid foods such as peanuts, eggs, and wheat from 16 weeks of age. 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.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups recommend exclusive breastfeeding for an infant's first six months, after which solids can be introduced.

The EAT trial was comprised of the early introduction group, which continued to breastfeed while six allergenic foods were introduced, and the standard introduction group, which were instructed to exclusively breastfeed to around age 6 months and consumed no food in that period, according to British infant feeding guidelines.

The team did note that the study did not use sensors to monitor infants' sleep and that parents might have misreported sleeping behaviour because they had previously encountered the idea that babies fed solid foods earlier sleep better.

The researchers from King's College, London, and the University of London admitted it was possible that mothers giving their babies solids may have responded to their questions in a more positive manner, having expected a positive effect, since many parents already believe that the practice encourages better sleep.

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

However, doctors still are emphasizing the importance of continued breastfeeding, in addition to the introduction of solid food.

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

The scientists found that the babies who were given the solid foods slept slightly longer, woke less frequently and were less likely to have very serious sleep problems than the babies given only breastmilk. "Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits".

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.

An FSA spokesperson said: "We are encouraging all women to stick to existing advice to exclusively breastfeed for around the first six months of age".

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