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Early solids help babies sleep

Current UK recommendations state that babies should be exclusively breastfed to 6 months. Lucina has long felt that overzealous adherence to this unnecessarily deprives some babies of the pleasures of food, and perhaps makes them more irritable. Now a study suggests that early feeding helps babies sleep better. The EAT food allergy trial, (see Archivist, Sept 2016; doi:10.1136/archdischild-2016–311602), randomised about 1300 healthy breastfed infants to receive either allergenic solids from age 3 months, or exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months. Its primary purpose was to examine development of allergy, but this spin-off study looked at sleep (Perkin M et al doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.0739). As assessed by parent-completed questionnaires, the early-solids group slept better on a number of measures: fewer wakings (mean 1.7 vs 2.0), longer duration (mean 17 min [95% CI 7.8 to 25)), and fewer ‘very serious sleep problems’ affecting maternal quality of life (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.2 to 2.6). Larger, hungrier babies who managed to eat more tended to sleep better. The benefits persisted beyond a year, by which time the groups were on similar diets.

The effects were significant but relatively small, and of course there may have been maternal bias in reporting of sleep patterns. This was a secondary outcome from a study designed …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.