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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Merino

Does Introducing Solids Improve Your Baby’s Sleep? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Guest blog post written by: Bradie Hutton, MHSc, RD

New parents, who are often familiar with sleep deprivation, know the value of a good night’s sleep better than anyone. It can be a challenging stage of parenthood when your sleep is frequently interrupted for night time feedings, changing, and soothing your baby back to sleep. This leads to a common question from many parents that I work with: “Will introducing solid foods help to improve my baby’s sleep?”. 

Will introducing solids help to improve my baby’s sleep?

Parents can sometimes feel hopeful that introducing solid foods  will help their baby to wake up less often or even sleep through the night. However, solid foods are unfortunately not the be-all-end-all fix to sleep challenges. Studies have shown introducing solid foods does not lead to reduced night wakings. Depending on the age of your baby and the amount of solids given, research has shown that solid foods may reduce nighttime feedings– however, this did not in turn reduce night time wakings.

One study published in 2018 did find that introducing solids early at the age of 3 months led to infants sleeping longer and waking less frequently. This study made many news headlines, claiming that introducing solids early was the answer to better sleep. This is where it’s extremely important to avoid jumping to conclusions with nutrition headlines as the study found that the babies offered solid foods early on slept at most 16 extra minutes per night and woke up 1.74 times a night compared to twice from the control group. In reality, these are very minor changes in infant sleep and we know that the risks of introducing solids early far outweigh the possible minor benefits.

It’s recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the World Health Organization to introduce solid foods in and around 6 months of age. Introducing them sooner can displace formula or breastmilk, which we don’t want to do as these are incredibly valuable sources of nutrients for your baby and especially important as their primary source of nutrition until around 6 months.

We’re introducing solids around 6 months – is it possible that there will be any changes to my baby’s sleep?

Although introducing solids will likely not lead to fewer night wakings, it’s absolutely possible that you may notice some changes to your baby’s sleep. Any routine changes may have a domino effect on other parts of your baby’s routine. Here are a couple of ways that you may notice solid foods impacting your baby’s sleep.

  1. Digestive Symptoms 

Introducing solids often leads to changes in your baby’s digestion and bowel habits. After all, they’re switching from having only liquids to breaking down solid food options. Every single baby is different, but for some, this can lead to tummy troubles such as constipation. Changes in digestion can lead to discomfort, sometimes resulting in a more fussy baby and wakefulness. Try to start solids slowly and have patience in this process, as your baby will adjust to their new routine soon!

2. Reduced need for nighttime feeding

As much as introducing solids will not likely improve your baby’s sleep, you may notice that they are less inclined to feeding or will feed for a shorter duration when they do wake up in the night. This can be a result of increasing their day time energy intake through solid foods. It’s also likely related to the fact that your baby is growing, and with that, so is their stomach. Since their stomach can hold more at one time, they can often go longer stretches through the night without feeling hungry.

In the end, every single baby is different and the impact of introducing solid foods will vary as well. It’s important to notice your child’s individual routines, changes, and symptoms and adjust accordingly. If you’re ever feeling doubts, it’s incredibly valuable to seek out one-on-one support for recommendations based on your individual experience.

Having support as a new parent is essential and when new mamas and babies are sleeping well, everyone thrives. Our teams at PUSH Mama Care and Sleeping Beautiezzz are here to support you in this wonderful new journey, mama! 

Bradie is a Registered Dietitian with PUSH Mama Care based in Toronto, Ontario. At PUSH, she specializes in perinatal, postpartum, and pediatric nutrition. The team at PUSH provides expert perinatal care to expectant families and new parents across Canada. Contact us today for private virtual or in-home care including nutrition support, breastfeeding and lactation support, prenatal and newborn courses, and infant/pediatric CPR and choking workshops.

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