'Babies given solid food sooner sleep better'

Babies given solid food plus breast milk from three months sleep better than those who are exclusively breastfed, according to a new study. They found children who progressed to solid foods had fewer issues with sleep than babies who were only breastfed for the first six months of their lives.

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.

Gideon Lack, who led the research, said: "Our study supports the widely held views by parents that it is more satiating for a baby to have solids".

Babies who are weaned onto solid foods sooner sleep longer and wake less, a study has suggested. The group was split in half, with one group consuming exclusively breastmilk for six months and the other gradually incorporating solid food into their diet along with breastmilk.

The parents completed online questionnaires monthly until their baby was 12 months old, and then every three months until the babies were 3 years old.

Despite the official advice, 75% of British mothers introduced solid food before five months, with a quarter (26%) citing infant night time waking as the reason for their decision, according to the Infant Feeding Survey of 2010. At night, the amount they woke up dropped from twice to 1.74 times on average.

Co author of the study Dr Michael Perkin, from St George's, University of London, pointed out that small differences generated large benefits for parents.

The team found that the more closely parents stuck to the early introduction programme, the stronger the effect. "Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits".

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

Mary Fewtrell, a professor and a nutrition lead at the United Kingdom -based Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) who was not involved in the study, commented: "These are interesting findings from a large randomized controlled trial".

"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".

However, she said the evidence used for existing advisory on breastfeeding is over 10 years old, and is being reviewed by scientific bodies in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

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

Soft fruits, like peach or melon, or baby rice or baby cereal mixed with your baby's usual milk.

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

Keep offering different foods. It can take lots of attempts before your baby will accept a new food or texture.

What to feed babies in the first six months of life can be controversial, with many mothers feeling judged if they are unable to breastfeed successfully, and guilty if they introduce bottles or solids.

Last month, the Royal College of Midwives responded to the pressure felt by new mothers by publicly stating new guidelines for midwives to respect a woman's choice not to breastfeed. As part of the study the team also looked the impact on other measures, including growth and sleep. 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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