Solid Foods, Better Sleep?

Early introduction of solid foods may improve infants' sleep

(RxWiki News) Introducing solid foods to your infant's diet before 6 months of age could improve his or her sleep, according to a new study.

Although the World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants until they are 6 months old, many mothers say they introduce solid foods before this time, according to the study authors. And many say they do this because their infants are waking up at night.

This new study found that introducing solid foods before infants are 6 months old may actually improve their sleep.

This research examined 1,303 infants in the United Kingdom. They were randomized to receive only breast milk or breast milk and solid foods introduced before the age of 6 months. On average, infants who received some solid foods slept 16.6 minutes longer per night than those who were exclusively breastfed.

Infants who began eating some solid foods before 6 months of age woke up 1.74 times per night on average, this study found. Among infants who only received breast milk, that figure was 2.01 times per night.

Additionally, serious infant sleep problems that can affect mothers' quality of life were less common in the infants who were introduced to solid foods at an early age.

"To our knowledge, we show for the first time in a randomized clinical trial setting that, consistent with the belief of many parents, the early introduction of solids does have a small but significant effect on sleep characteristics," the authors of this study wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk alone can support infant development and growth for six months. Solid foods should not replace breast milk during infants' first year, the CDC said. Instead, solid foods can complement breast milk, which should be the primary source of nutrients.

Talk to your family's pediatrician before making any major changes to your infant's diet.

This study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The UK Food Standards Agency, Medical Research Council, UK National Institute for Health Research and others funded this research. The study authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.