Feeding Your Baby On Demand ‘May Contribute to Higher IQ’

March 20th, 2012 by

Many of our own mums claim that you should immediately get your baby on a schedule, while others explain that baby will let us know when he is hungry. While there hasn’t been a solid conclusion to either feeding your baby on demand or on a schedule, there are plenty of advocates for both methods. Some women even employ a little bit of both, but a new study found when a baby eats can be as important as what he eats when it comes to IQ.

Published in the European Journal of Public Health, the study revealed that babies who are breastfed or bottle fed to a schedule did not perform as well in school as their on demand fed peers.  This is the first study to examine the long-term effects of demand-fed versus scheduled feedings.

The study looked at 3 types of mum and baby pairs: mums who fed to a schedule at 4 weeks of age, mums who attempted but were unsuccessful at feeding on schedule, and mums who fed on demand. The children were given IQ tests and school-based SAT’s between the ages of 5 and 14 finding that demand feeding is associated with a higher IQ score.  The 8 year old children who had been demand fed had IQ scores that were between 4 and 5 points higher than those who were schedule fed.

Even while taking into account a wide range of background factors including parents’ age, income level, education, parenting style, and maternal health; the results of the SAT scores were consistently higher for demand fed children at ages 5, 7, 11, and 14.  Scheduled feedings did benefit mums, however, as they reported high levels of well-being and confidence. 

Although the news is exciting, the researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex explain that caution should be used when interpreting the results. Dr Maria Iacovou, who led the research from ISER explains: “At this stage, we must be very cautious about claiming a causal link between feeding patterns and IQ. We cannot definitively say why these differences occur, although we do have a range of hypotheses. This is the first study to explore this area and more research is needed to understand the processes involved.”

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