MONDAY, July 9, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If there’s one thing frazzled new parents crave, it’s that their baby sleeps well.
Now, research suggests that the odds for good infant slumber rise when solid foods are introduced relatively early.
The British findings contradict some long-held guidelines on infant feeding, however, and were met with mixed reviews by experts in the United States.
Dr. Michael Grosso directs pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. He agreed with the findings, which he said are “debunking the widely held belief that infants woke up at night — or didn’t — for reasons that have nothing to do with food.”
But neonatal dietitian Meghan Reed, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, disagreed. She said that “while there was a short period of time in which the infants [in the study] seemed to sleep better, it can be argued that the benefits [of early solid foods] do not outweigh the risks and possible future negative effects.”
Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for new babies for the first six months of life. The AAP also notes that introducing solid foods to baby before 4 months of age has been linked to excess weight gain and body fat as children grow.
In short, conventional wisdom by experts has been that infant sleep is not influenced by how babies are fed.
Many parents have long disagreed, however. To help sort the issue out, researchers at King’s College London tracked the sleep and nutrition of more than 1,200 infants in the United Kingdom who were breast-fed only for their first three months.
The babies were then divided into two groups, with one group continuing to breast-feed exclusively for another three months, while the other group started solid foods while still being breast-fed.
Infants in the group that began solid foods at 3 months slept longer, woke less frequently at night and had fewer serious sleep problems than those who were breast-fed exclusively until 6 months of age, the researchers reported July 9 in JAMA Pediatrics.