How to help your baby sleep better
Are you struggling to get your baby to sleep throughout the night? It can be tiring when your baby wakes up frequently. That is why 75 per cent of British mothers introduce solid food before five months, as they believe it helps their baby sleep longer and wake less frequently. However, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
To determine whether the early introduction of solids can help your baby sleep better, researchers from King’s College London and St George’s University of London conducted a study — Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study — between January 2008 and August 2015.
The early solids introduction group slept 16.6 minutes longer per night, which is almost two hours longer per week.
This study was a population-based randomised clinical trial involving 1303 exclusively breastfed three-month-olds from England and Wales. The babies were divided into two groups and one group followed standard infant feeding advice — to exclusively breastfeed for around six months. The second group, while continuing to breastfeed, were asked to introduce solid foods to their babies’ diet from the age of three months.
All parents were asked to complete an online questionnaire every month until their baby was 12 months old, and then every three months up to three years of age. The questionnaires ask questions about breastfeeding frequency and frequency of solid food consumption, as well as questions about sleep duration. The researchers also assessed maternal quality of life using World Health Organisation measures of physical and psychological health, social relationships and environment.
Out of the 1303 infants, 94 per cent (1225) completed the three-year questionnaire. In the sample, 608 were from the exclusive breastfeeding group and 607 from the early introduction of food group. The study revealed that the group of infants who had solids introduced early slept longer and woke less frequently than the group of infants who were exclusively breastfed until around six months of age.
The researchers found that the differences between the two groups peaked at six months. The early solids introduction group slept 16.6 minutes longer per night, which is almost two hours longer per week, and their night waking frequency decreased from just over twice per night to 1.74.
There was also an improvement in maternal wellbeing, as shown by the feedback received from the questionnaire, which showed that sleep problems that were significantly related to the maternal quality of life were less frequent in the group that introduced solids before six months.
Source: JAMA Pediatrics
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