You might have heard parents swear “as soon as we started solids she started sleeping 8 hours!” causing you to wonder if you should be feeding your baby real food too. What wouldn’t we do to gain a few more minutes of sleep at night?
Sadly, it doesn’t help. There is very little evidence that suggests a positive correlation between solids and longer stretches of sleep, and there is some evidence that suggests starting solids too early can disrupt sleep (just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse!)
But what about your friend’s baby? The day she started solids her baby started sleeping…
There are some babies who start sleeping through the night after they start solids, but a vital fact to keep in mind is that most babies begin eating solids between the ages of 4-6 months, which is when a lot of babies begin to improve their sleep naturally on their own. So yes, he may have started to sleep longer at the time when he started solids, but it’s just Mom’s guess that it was the solids – it could have happened on it’s own without the food.
Listen. I get why it’s so tempting. What won’t we do for some more precious sleep? It sounds like it makes sense: baby wakes up because she’s hungry. Stuff her with lots of food, and a bit more right before bed, and she won’t wake up till she’s hungry again- hopefully at 7am!
The flaw in this line of thinking is twofold: firstly, most babies wake up for many other reasons aside from hunger, so feeling full won’t solve those wakings. Secondly, too much food can be very taxing on your baby’s digestive system, causing stomach pain or constipation, which will keep her up even longer!
Can it hurt?
Starting solids too early can cause stomach issues and possibly decrease your milk supply, which is much more vital to your baby than solids before 6 months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently advises waiting to start solids until baby is 6 months old, and exclusively breastfeeding until then (if possible). Waiting this length of time will protect your baby from food allergies, iron deficiency and possibly future obesity. Have the conversation with your pediatrician, and always follow his advice for any food or health concerns.
Solids are yummy, babies are delicious – and when the two meet, it’s like a slice of heaven. Seriously, there’s no greater joy than seeing the look on your baby’s face when she savors that first bite of mashed banana.
However, the decision of when to start solids should be made by your doctor, who will guide you purely on the basis of physical development. It won’t help sleep in any real way, so don’t get hung up on it. If your doctor says it’s not time to start solids and your baby wakes up many times through the night, it’s more likely due to poor sleep habits than hunger for avocados or pears.
If you’re struggling with your baby’s sleep, there are answers for you other than solids! Be sure to check out my Baby Sleep Course to learn how to improve your baby’s sleep – Gerber jars aside.