Babies should be fed solid food from just 3 MONTHS

Giving babies solid foods early do the cons outweigh the pros

123RF Giving babies solid foods early do the cons outweigh the pros

The British study found that introducing solid food to babies younger than six months was associated with babies sleeping an average of about seven minutes more a night than their exclusively breastfed peers, peaking at nearly 17 minutes more a night at age 6 months.

The study by King's College, London, and St George's, University of London, found that moving that timeline up by three months has positive effects for both moms and babies.

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.

"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".

Plus, the added sleep time associated with solid food may not be as much as some parents think.

They performed a secondary analysis of the Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) trial, which was originally created to examine the effects of early food introduction on the development of food allergies.

Official advice is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life.

Those babies given solid foods slept for 16.6 minutes longer and woke 13 per cent less often in the night than those who were kept on just breastmilk.

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All the babies were breastfed, but about half started getting certain solid foods in addition to breast milk from age 3 months or somewhat later, but before they were 6 months old. Parents of exclusively breastfed babies were more likely to perceive their babies as having sleep problems, researchers found.

Co author of the study Dr Michael Perkin, from St George's, University of London, said: "Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits". Researchers say that women should still follow this piece of advice.

Professor Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead the the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) underlined that infant feeding was being reviewed.

She said: "These are interesting findings from a large randomised controlled trial".

"However, the evidence base for the existing advice on exclusive breastfeeding is over 10 years old, and is now being reviewed in the United Kingdom by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition".

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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