Feeding On Demand Leads To Higher IQ – But How About Mom’s Sanity?
Babies who are fed on demand have a higher IQ and do better academically than those fed on a schedule, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health. Researchers in England studied more than 10,000 and found that babies who were fed on demand – using either breast milk or formula – scored four to five points higher on IQ tests at age eight.
“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,” said lead researcher Maria Iacovou. “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 here’s a major consideration: mothers who feed on demand are more exhausted and cranky than those with a schedule. In fact, those in the latter category scored better on “well-being” measures and reported feeling more confident and less tearful. This is huge, yet few people are focusing on this very significant fact.
At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for our children. If that means feeding them on demand with hopes that they’ll do better in school down the line, then so be it. But for many moms, the idea of feeding on demand rather than having at least some sort of schedule is enough to drive her mad.
I know that when I breastfed my second child, I started out feeding him whenever he was hungry – mostly because he was small and also because I was lucky enough to be able to nurse with such ease. But after endless weeks of demand-feeding, I was totally sleep-deprived and pretty bitchy all around. Eventually I said, “Enough with this!” and I indeed put him on a more rigid schedule that allowed me to sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time and him to begin the process of self-soothing. Did he die of hunger? Of course not. In the end, these scheduled feeds are what worked best for us; for others, it has always been feeding on demand.
The whole thing reminds me of the breast milk vs. formula debate. I know at least a few of women who gave up breastfeeding altogether after a couple of days not because they couldn’t do it but rather because the sleep deprivation was making them crazy (at least with a bottle, their husbands could take on some of the night feeds). Plus, they felt the responsibility to care for this tiny being fell solely on them, which was an overwhelming notion. Each of them felt judged big-time, but they knew themselves well enough to know it was the right choice for them.
So with regards to this new study, the results are certainly interesting but I hope they don’t put pressure on moms to do the “right” thing when it comes to feeding – because really the right thing is to know what works for you.