I’ve written before about My Top 5 Baby Sleep Tips as well as what to if your toddler gets out of bed every night. But today I wanted to focus specifically on weaning and the influence it can have on baby’s sleep. Sleep – or more often the lack of it – is understandably such a hot topic among parents of little ones, and parents often wonder what impact starting solids will have on their baby’s sleep. That’s why I asked Sarah Patel, a holistic sleep coach from Teach To Sleep, to give us all the official lowdown.
Myths around baby sleep & weaning
Many of us will have been told by well-meaning relatives or friends that as soon as our baby starts eating, they will sleep through the night. Sounds logical, right ? If a baby isn’t hungry at night, they won’t wake up. The problem with this argument is that waking in the night is rarely just about hunger. All the same, many families choose to start solids early with the hope of getting more sleep… even though the advice is to wait until your baby is around 6 months before introducing solids. This free factsheet will tell you all you need to know about getting prepared for weaning and your baby’s readiness for starting solids. But what does the research say about starting solids and what it means for baby’s sleep?
Current research on baby sleep & starting solids
A study in 2018 found that babies who were introduced to solids at 3 months (earlier than recommended) slept 7 minutes more each night overall. However, the research had a number of limitations, one being that it used parent recall to report the amount of sleep the baby had…
Another study involving babies of 4 months and older who were fed more during the daytime (milk and solids) found that these babies did have less night feeds BUT that they still had the same number of night wakings! This makes sense to me because babies wake in the night for a variety of reasons with the most common one being for comfort.
A further study in 2010 reported that babies who start solids earlier than 4 months showed a difference of almost 40 minutes LESS sleep per day than those who were not given solids! This finding also makes sense to me as some babies will have reactions to solids (tummy ache, more gas, changes in stools etc), especially if the baby is younger than around 6 months.
Whilst we clearly need more research in this area, for now it doesn’t seem worth going against the guidance of when to start your baby on solid foods because research is mixed and, if anything you might get a few minutes more of sleep through the night, if that!
You might even have the same number of wake ups… or possibly even less sleep! Every single baby is different and there isn’t one “fix-all” when it comes to baby sleep.
Further support on sleep & weaning
I hope this provides you with some understanding around the relationship between starting solids and sleep.
If you are after any more sleep tips or advice, check out Sarah’s instagram account where she runs a weekly Q and A session, or visit her Teach To Sleep website to find out more information about online courses, sleep guides and one-to-one consultations.