So much of the battle over infant feeding plays out over breast versus bottle that there’s precious little time left to focus on another area marked by its own share of controversy: do you feed baby on demand or on schedule?
It may depend on whose needs are being prioritized — baby’s or mom’s. New research in the European Journal of Public Health finds that infants fed whenever they seem hungry wind up as better students who score higher on tests, including ones that measure IQ. Meanwhile, mothers who feed their babies on a schedule indicate they feel better and more confident about themselves than moms who feed on demand.
Researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex and Oxford University assessed 10,419 children born in the early 1990s to compare the outcomes of feeding on demand or according to a schedule. They looked at parents’ educational levels, family income and maternal health, among other factors.
Regardless of whether they were breast- or bottle-fed, babies whose cries were rewarded with milk or formula boasted an IQ that was up to five points higher than scheduled babies by the time they were 8 years old.
Dr. Maria Iacovou of the ISER was the study’s lead researcher. She described the five-point difference as “statistically highly significant,”ccording to the Guardian.
Intent didn’t seem to matter in this study: mothers who tried to adhere to a feeding schedule but failed had children who scored similarly to babies fed on demand. Perhaps their higher scores reflect greater security and trust on the part of a baby who knows his mother will take care of his needs.