Courtesy of the University of Essex and World Science staff
Babies who are fed whenever they want may later perform better in school than those who were fed on a schedule, new research suggests.
The finding is based on the results of intelligence tests and school-based standardised tests carried out between the ages of five and 14. The IQ scores of eight-year-old children who had been demand-fed as babies were four to five points higher than the scores of schedule-fed children, the study found. IQ tests are a measure of intelligence designed to express the difference between a person’s intelligence and the average intelligence for their age group, roughly as a percentage.
The findings are published in the European Journal of Public Health.
The study was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, UK, and at the University of Oxford. However, the researchers urged caution in interpreting the findings.
‘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,’ said Maria Iacovou, who led the research from the University of Essex.
Taking into account a wide range of background factors that include parents’ educational level, family income, the child’s sex and age, maternal health and parenting styles, the research found that demand-feeding is associated with higher IQ scores at age eight, and this difference is also evident in the results of standardised tests at ages five, seven, 11 and 14. The study found that scheduled feeding times did have benefits for the mothers, however, who reported feelings of confidence and high levels of well-being.
‘The difference between schedule and demand-fed children is found both in breastfed and in bottle-fed babies,’ said Iacovou.
Difference in IQ levels highly significant, but…
‘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. 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.’
The children of mothers who had tried but failed to feed to a schedule were found to have similar test scores as demand-fed babies, Iacovou said, which is notable because they would be expected to do worse based on their mothers’ typical demographics. ‘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,’ she said.
Source: World Science, http://www.world-science.net