Introducing Solids at 4 or 6 Months? How Does It Affect Sleep?

Updated on February 15, 2008
G.S. asks from Des Plaines, IL
10 answers

My daughter just had her 4 month exam and the doctor said we can introduce solids at any time. Dr. Sears recommends waiting until 6 months to introduce solids, and I've also read that delaying may prevent allergies or other intestinal problems. Our families have few food allergies and my daughter already sleeps through the night (9pm-6am), so I'm not trying to rush her but I want to make sure she's fed. Dr. Sears talks about introducing solids as a fun learning experience rather than as filling up a baby but from what I've heard from my mom, sister and other people, feeding solids is all about filling a baby up. I'm wondering if I'm not feeding my daughter enough. I work full-time so she BF 3 times a day and formula-feeds 6 oz. every 3 hours. She drains both instantly. Is she able to transition to 8oz. every four hours? Do you go to larger liquid portions before or after introducing solids? How does the changed schedule affect naps? She naps anywhere from 30-120 minutes 4-5 times a day. We put her to bed at 9pm but I'd love to put her to bed at 6-7 for the night. When are babies able to sleep 11-12 hours at night?
Thanks ladies for all your information!

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So What Happened?

I wanted to thank everyone for their comments. We planned on waiting until my daughter was 6 months but at 5 1/2 months, she continually watched us eat with such interest, following my hand from the plate to my mouth and back to the plate, so we went ahead and began. We started with 1 tbs of rice cereal to 5 tbs of formula and mixed it well. She ate the entire thing! She took to spoon feeding like a champ and enjoyed every minute of it. I can't believe how good she was at it! She even tried to feed herself, switching the spoon back and forth between her hands and trying to grab the bowl. What I need to examine is what do you do after the first feeding: how much, how thick, how often, and when to transition to other solids. I would appreciate any advice! Funny thing is that both my mom & sister asked about her sleeping habits after we introduced food. I thoroughly enjoyed telling them that there was no difference; that solid food have no effect on sleep patterns and she continues to be a great sleeper like she was before solids. So there! On a related note, at 20 weeks we moved her sleep time from 9pm to 6pm without a hitch.

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J.P.

answers from Chicago on

Another reason to wait is that baby's tongue thrust isn't always developed by 4 months. You would probably end up "practice" feeding baby for 2 months instead of actually feeding baby. Good luck with your decision.

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G.H.

answers from Chicago on

Has your daughter started rice cereal mixed in the bottle? Use the same amt. of milk that she's use to with 2 TBS. mixed in that. She'll sleep longer and be more satisfied. You'll have to slit the nipple of course but not too much, you don't want baby to choke. In a couple of weeks you can start with baby fruit and a little less milk. If she's holding that down try some soft mashed potatoes and her milk. It's baby steps to develop her tummy workings but don't put it off if HER dr. says to start food. Throw that book away That dr. from the book probably never raised a child on his own. "Already have raised MOMS" can probably give you just as good information as he can. Books kinda give the generalization for all kids, not YOUR child. Each child is different. Your personal Dr. knows best. Good luck. Wish it were me going thru this again. I envy you. This is the best time of life for you. Enjoy every stage MOMMY.

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J.W.

answers from Chicago on

Our peditrician said that it was an old wives tale that solids makes them sleep through the night. When we started at 5 1/2 months, she slept solid for the first 4 nights, then began waking up again...I highly recommend the book Super Baby Foods, there is a quiz in there to assess the readiness of starting your infant on solids. www.superbabyfoods.com

I began putting are daughter down around 7pm each night around 4 months to get her use to an early bedtime and she JUST began sleeping through the night around 6 months after I let her cry it out from getting up to play instead of nurse, it only took her once to learn! However, we are still having issues with napping. Our peditrician also stated that when babies reach 14-15lbs, then they will start sleeping a lot better at night, which was the case for us as well.

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A.M.

answers from Chicago on

The American Academy of Pediatrics has two subcommittees that address his issue. The nutrition subcommittee recommends starting solids at 4 months and the breastfeeding subcommittee recommends waiting until 6 months. So really, any time between 4-6 months is fine. Newer research shows that babies digestive systems are still quite immature at this stage and so contrary to the older view, feeding solids is not about filling the baby up. It is about getting more diverse nutrients and also learning to eat and swallow. Feeding your baby solids will not affect how they sleep. When they can eat enough (solids or breastmilk/formula) that they are not hungry soon, that is when they will sleep through the night. If your baby is sleeping 9pm to 7am, then that is sleeping through the night. you could try to move the time to closer to 8pm. It is great that your baby is getting 4-5 naps in the day. Hopefully, that means she is very well rested. The book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy baby" is excellent on sleep issues.
Your doc is right, any time now that you want to start feeding your baby you can.

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A.L.

answers from Chicago on

I introduced solids to my daughter (now 6 months) when she was four months. We started slow with cereal once a day for a week then the next week increasing it to twice then the next week three times a day. After that she started on stage 1 veggies and fruits 1 jar a day, the same veggie for a week before we switched to a new one. In retrospect, i would have taken it a little slower and fed her cereal once a day for two or three weeks before introducing it twice a day. Just making the process last a little longer. I breastfed her afer she ate cereal but she ended up drinking less milk because she was full and my milk supply reduced dramatically. I would advice BF or bottle feeding BEFORE you give the solid. My doctor told me to do it after, but I think he's wrong. She will definitely get nutrients from the solids and it will be a fun adventure for her to try them. My daughter got on a much more strict schedule with the introduction of solids. Before that, she ate whenever she was hungry, sometimes 2 hours sometimes 4 or 5. After the solids she became much more regular. she eats at 9 am naps for two hours, eats at 2 pm naps for an hour, eats at 7 pm and is in bed by 8. Then breastfeeds once at 5 am. So she sleeps from 8 pm to 5 am then goes back down until about 8am. I just went through this and have done a lot of second guessing myself and vowing "next time, I'm going to..." Hope this helps. Congrats and good luck!

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P.D.

answers from Chicago on

Geradine:

you are doing a wonderful job.

Dr. Sears is correct about introducing solids. Your child also does not have the enzymes to digest other food prior to 6 months. the introduction of foods is about taste and texture.. not nutrients. If you are going to "fill you baby up" you want to do it with food that is nutritious not empty calories.. what is better than human milk?

Sleep is not about being full..

P., RLC, IBCLC, CST
Breastfeeding and Parenting Solutions

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L.S.

answers from Atlanta on

Hi Geraldine - I asked the same question to my pediatrician about whether I should put more milk in my son's bottles. He said if he is consistently finishing them, then by all means you could offer more. The only way to know if she can take more is to offer it.

Good luck!

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K.E.

answers from Chicago on

Don't approach solids as filling up. Some people swear by filling up their baby to induce longer sleep but in my experience it's just coincidence. Babies simply need Breastmilk or formula to grow the first year + so don't worry that you're not feeding enough. Just follow your baby's cues. If she seems hungry, give her more. Remember that they go through growth spurts that make them ravenous one minute and could eat like a fly the next.
I think many babies start to sleep 12 hours around 8 months. Each kid is different though!!! Mine still wakes once a night and he's 14 months.

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T.V.

answers from Chicago on

Hi Geraldine-I had an in-home daycare for 8 years and have 4 beautiful children of my own. All of the research that I have done plus my own experiences it is better to wait until 6 months if you can. However-I do not agree with the cereal. I have been practicing natural and organic living for 6 years and swear by it. I have found babies do better with simple fruits for the first introduction to food, the grains are too hard on the digestive and elimination systems. However-you have to do what you feel is best. You can give her as much as she wants-increase the formula and see what happens or nurse for longer periods of time. She'll tell you exactly what she needs and it may be a growth spurt which means that they may need to eat every 1.5 hours. 80% of brain development and growth happens in the first two years-

As far as sleeping as long as you keep it in a routine she will do fine and sleep longer when she is ready but every child is different-she may be only 7-8 hour sleeper at night and that may change. As long as she is happy and growing, trust in yourself. Having your first is testing the waters and tweaking and it is all new to you. You are doing a great job!!

T.

Design your style, design your purse!! The hippest, hottest trends at www.bspurses.com/tvanschoyck animal free, environmentally friendly materials and custom made!!

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A.R.

answers from Chicago on

Our baby slept 11-12 hours through the night around 4-5 months. We still fed him 5 times a day, 6 ounces each. At around 7 months, we were able to shift to a typical breakfast, lunch, dinner, and pre-bed bottle schedule.

I am no doctor, but have done a lot of reading so take that for whatever it is worth. Numerous credible resources I have consulted have indicated that there is no link between "filling them up" and getting longer periods of sleep. Again, in my opinion, after about 4-5 months when a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and feeding, it is more about using the food as a means to soothe and comfort and not as a nutritional necessity. The nursing can play a huge role in the soothing - i.e, the baby is looking more for the comfort and security as opposed to the calories (which, by the way, there's nothing wrong with soothing your baby in that manner if that's what you choose to do).

If you're interested in learning more about putting your child to bed between 6-7, you may want to read sections of Dr. Marc Weissbluth's "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". What I mean by this is, read the research part about why 6-7 is a good time to put most infants down to sleep, how most infant's sleep/body clocks work, etc.

Since you mentioned Dr. Sears, I'm going to guess that you would not be interested in using CIO (Weissbluth does advocate CIO as one of the possible methods to use)...and that's okay! It's your family, your child, so your choice! But, you can totally educate yourself about the hows and whys of infant/baby sleep while totally ignoring the techniques if you don't want to use them. At least you gain some basis or perspective for how to help your child get the sleep he or she needs.

Next question: When to Start Feeding a Baby Food and Not Just Formula