Babies sleep better when they begin solid food early, study says

Story highlights

Babies given solid foods early slept about 7 minutes longer, on average, each night

Parents of the early solid food babies also reported fewer serious sleep problems

CNN  — 

Both the UK National Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed until about 6 months of age and then begin to introduce solid foods.

Yet, an alternative feeding plan is also safe for babies, new research suggests.

Introducing a child to solid baby foods after just 3 months was associated with a small but significant improvement in nighttime sleep and slightly fewer wakings throughout the week compared with babies who began eating solids later, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

For Dr. Gideon Lack, senior author of the study and a professor and head of the Department of Paediatric Allergy at King’s College London, the study’s single most important finding was the “more than 50% reduction in the number of families reporting severe sleep disturbances in their babies.”

“Lack of sleep can be pretty devastating for babies and their families,” he said.

Nighttime sleep

Many parents assume that a belly filled with solid food and not just liquids will help their infants sleep throughout the night, but previous scientific studies have not proved it.

So, while planning a study that examined how allergies develop in babies – the Enquiring About Tolerance or EAT study – Lack and his co-authors decided they might also design the study to explore the connection between infant diets and sleep habits.