Feeding on demand – does it help IQ?

Children who aren’t fed to a schedule could achieve higher tests scores – but mums feel the strain, research indicates

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Feeding your baby on demand, using either breast milk or formula, may help your child do better at school, a new study suggests.

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The study, of 10,419 children born in the 1990s, monitored mums who only fed on demand, those who tried a schedule and couldn’t do it and those who stuck to a schedule from four weeks.

Babies who were fed when hungry were found to have an IQ up to five points higher by the age of 8, said researches from the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex and Oxford University who lead the study. They achieved higher Stats test scored at 5, 7,11 and 14, too.

The Guardian reports that children whose mums had tried unsuccessfully to feed to a schedule had similar Sat test results and IQ scores as those who fed on demand.

Dr Maria Iacovou, who lead the study said, “It seems that it is actually having been fed to a schedule, rather than having the type of mother who attempted to feed to a schedule (successfully or not), which makes the difference.” Basically, once factors such as education, living arrangements and age were taken into account, it was still having been fed to a schedule that seemed to matter.

Maria said, “To give a sense of the kind of difference that four or five higher IQ points might make, in a class of 30 children, for example, a child who is right in the middle of the class, ranked at 15th, might be, with an improvement of four or five IQ points, ranked higher, at about 11th or 12th in the class.”

But, those mums who did stick to a feeding schedule were found do better on the wellbeing measures, the Guardian reports. Schedule-feeding mums were more confident and less tearful. Oliver James, psychologist and author, told the Guardian, “I’m not surprised to hear that women who feed on demand are more likely to be tired and tearful.”

A health advisor speaking to the BBC Breakfast Show today said that it all comes down to the individual mum and what suits her and her family.

Have you tried both? What was your experience?

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