Breastfeeding is best for babies, but what about their sleep-deprived parents?

Solid Food Helps Babies Sleep Better

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 study by King's College London and St George's, University of London looked at 1303 three-month-olds and divided them into two groups.

Infants introduced to solid foods at an earlier age slept longer through the night, while infants with later introduction to solid food were more likely to have sleep problems, researchers found.

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.

Child food experts at University College London advised parents to choose bitter vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or cauliflower as their baby's first solid food.

They also found these benefits were long lasting - with the babies who had started eating earlier still sleeping better at one year of age.

The authors explained the "commonly held belief" that introducing solid foods earlier helps babies sleep better.

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Currently, The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

The children's health and behaviour was followed for three years, with their sleep and consumption of solid food tracked by families through questionnaires.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that the babies in the second group had fewer sleep problems and mothers reported improved quality of life.

Michael Perkin, of the Population Health Research Institute and St George's Hospital, both in London, said results from the new analysis suggest that better sleep could be another benefit of starting solids early.

'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.

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.

'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.

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