- When newborn babies are introduced to solid foods early, they tend to sleep longer and wake up less in the night.
- Moms should only breastfeed the baby till he or she is six months old is the commonest belief.
- 75% of British mothers have started introducing solid food to babies before five months, when they think the baby is ready.
- With a quarter say 26 % of them saying that infant night time duration and waking up habits are what they are thinking of when they start the solid food.
If solid foods are introduced to the newborn baby early, they tend to sleep longer and wake up less in the night, finds a new study. The findings of this study are published in the JAMA Pediatrics
According to the government advice, mothers should only breastfeed till six months of age. However, all that is changing because nearly 75% of British mothers have been found to have been introducing solids before five months, with a quarter (26%) saying that infant night time and waking up habits are what they are looking at when they are making the decision.
‘Infants in the group which had solids introduced early slept longer and woke up less frequently than those infants that were to follow standard advice to breastfeed to around six months of age exclusively.
NHS guidelines tend to contraindicate this as they state that starting solid foods won't make babies sleep longer through the night. Even the UK Department of Health and Social Care advises the mothers to introduce solid food only when the baby is ready.
Food Standards Agency and the Medical Research Council funded this Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study. It was conducted in between January 2008 and August 2015 at St Thomas' Hospital, London.
A population-based randomized clinical trial was conducted with 1303 exclusively breastfed three-month-old babies from England and Wales. These babies were divided into two groups, with one group being fed with breast milk only, while the mothers of the other group were asked to introduce solid foods to their infants' diet from the age of three months.
Parents were asked to complete online questionnaires every month until their babies were one year old and from then every three months they were asked to continue until they were three years old. The questionnaires were specifically designed to measure the frequency and duration of solid food intake and breastfeeding and its associated sleep duration.
Even the mother's quality of life was assessed using the World Health Organization's measures of physical and psychological health, social relationships and environment.
Of the 1303 original participants in the study, nearly 1225 completed the three-year questionnaire. Six hundred and eight infants were from exclusive breastfeeding group, and Six hundred and seven were from solid food introduction group.
Through this study, researchers found that in the group in which babies were introduced to solid food early slept longer and woke up less in the night time, when compared to the breastfed group.
The differences between two groups peaked at six months, the babies who were introduced to solid foods slept for a quarter of an hour (16.6 minutes) longer per night, i.e. (almost 2 hours longer per week) even their night waking frequency decreased from just over twice per night to 1.74.
'The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep, While the official guidance is that starting solid foods won't make babies more likely to sleep through the night, this study suggests that this advice needs to be re-examined in light of the evidence we have gathered.' said Professor Gideon Lack, lead author of the paper.
'It is a commonly-held belief among mothers that introducing solids early will help babies sleep better, and our study supports this. We found a small but significant increase in sleep duration and less frequent waking at night. Given that infant sleep directly affects the parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits said Dr. Michael Perkin, a Co-lead author of the study.
An FSA spokesperson has warned people about the limitations of the study, and they have advised people to seek the advice from their family doctor or pediatrician if they have doubts.