Should you feed your baby on demand or follow a feeding schedule? Letting Baby decide when it's mealtime may make him smarter...
An age-old parenting debate has a new twist thanks to a study from the UK that suggests babies who are fed whenever they are hungry grow up to do better in school than those who are fed on schedule.
To get a gauge on kid smarts and infant feeding, researchers used a sample of 10,419 children born in the early 1990s, and took into account a range of background factors, including parental educational levels, family income, a child's sex and age, maternal health and parenting styles, reports The Guardian. Tracking children until age 14, the study showed that babies who were fed when they were hungry—with breast milk or formula—achieved higher standardized test scores at ages 5, 7, 11, and 14; by the age of 8, demand-fed babies also had an IQ four to five points higher than children kept on strict feeding schedules.
"The difference between schedule and demand-fed children is found both in breastfed and in bottle-fed babies. The difference in IQ levels of around four to five points, though statistically highly significant, would not make a child at the bottom of the class move to the top, but it would be noticeable," says Dr. Maria Iacovou, who led the study (via The Guardian).
Who doesn't want a smarter child? However, before you think about throwing out that schedule, the study also uncovered one other surprising twist: While they may be raising brainier babies, mothers who keep to scheduled feeding times score better on wellbeing measures, and report feeling more confident and less tearful. On the whole, moms who feed on demand indicated they more often feel tired and grumpy.
Keep track of your baby's feeding routine—scheduled or on demand—with these printable charts!