Research carried out by St George’s, University of London and King’s College London has demonstrated that the early introduction of solids into an infant’s diet leads to longer sleep duration, less frequent waking at night, and a reduction in reported serious sleep problems.

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calendar-icon 10 July 2018

The study is a secondary analysis of the recent Enquiring About Tolerance study, a population-based clinical trial that looked at the early introduction of foods into the infant diet from age three months.

1303 babies were randomised to introduce solid foods into the diet from three months of age alongside continued breastfeeding, compared with babies that continued to be exclusively breastfed until six months, only receiving solid food after that time. All mothers were asked to contemporaneously complete a detailed sleep questionnaire on 15 occasions between three months and three years of age.

Following the early introduction of solids, infants in the group where food was introduced early slept significantly longer, the difference peaking at 16.6 minutes per night at six months of age. These infants also experienced on average 9.1% fewer night wakings when compared with the standard introduction group.

Most clinically significant, families in the standard introduction group were almost twice as likely to report their infant having a ‘very serious’ sleep problem, compared with infants in the early introduction group.

At age 6 months, when the differences between the two groups were most significant, early introduction group infants were having two hours extra sleep per week and were waking 2 fewer times at night per week.

Dr Michael Perkin, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Epidemiology & Consultant in Paediatric Allergy at St George’s, University of London, said: “It is a commonly-held belief among mothers that introducing solids early will help babies sleep better, and our study supports this. 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.”

“Association of Early Introduction of Solids With Infant Sleep. A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial” is published in JAMA Pediatrics.