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Starting babies to solid food sooner may help them sleep better

It’s widely recommended that new mothers breastfeed for the first six months of their infant’s life. But now, new research has found that introducing solid food earlier could help with sleeping and improve quality of life for moms.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization all officially recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the six months after birth.

This is said to promote healthy growth and development and even after solid foods are introduced, breastfeeding is still suggested until at least a year after birth.

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has similar guidelines and the UK Department of Health and Social Care recommends that solid food should be introduced only when the infant is ready.

But according to the research, 75 percent of British mothers start solid foods earlier in the hopes that it will help their children sleep longer and wake up less throughout the night, even though the NHS says that starting solid food early has no impact on sleeping.

A new study conducted by researchers from King’s College London and St. George’s University shows that this may not be the case. The results were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study was titled The Enquiring about Tolerance (EAT) and took place between 2008 and 2015.

1,303 breastfed three-month-old infants from England and Wales were part of the study and the researchers split the babies into two groups.

Researchers asked mothers of the first group to follow the recommended guidelines and stick to breastfeeding for six months. The second group was introduced to solid foods earlier along with breastfeeding.

The parents also completed online questionnaires that asked about feeding, breastfeeding and sleep duration.

The study also took into account how well the mothers fared during the three-year feeding trials.

Babies who were given solid foods early slept longer, about a quarter of an hour each night, and didn’t wake up as often throughout the night which was a great help to the mothers as well.

“It is a commonly-held belief among mothers that introducing solids early will help babies sleep better, and our study supports this,” said Michael Perkin, a co-lead author of the study. “We found a small but significant increase in sleep duration and less frequent waking at night. Given that infant sleep directly affects parental quality of life, even a small improvement can have important benefits.”

Although the study seems to prove that introducing solid foods earlier does help with sleeping, the Food Standards Agency which helped fund the study stated that women should still stick to the recommended six-month guidelines because of limitations to the study and the need for further research.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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