Babies that are fed 'on demand' have a higher IQ.

HER newborn baby daughter barely left Elizabeth Swanson’s side for the first six months.

Elizabeth would feed Genevieve whenever she showed signs of wanting to breastfeed - including through the night when she shared a bed with her mum.

She did not adopt a feeding or sleeping schedule and Elizabeth always picked Genevieve up when she cried.

Feeding a baby on demand - when a baby is fed when they are hungry rather than in set intervals - is a contentious issues for parents.

Many families are told to quickly establish a routine for their baby’s feeding and sleeping patterns.

However, Elizabeth felt that a scheduled approach was not right her or baby.

“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.

Dr Maria Iacovou

Elizabeth, 32, says: “I followed my natural instincts with Genevieve and it felt unnatural to me to force her into a feeding and sleeping schedule.

“I had a lot of conflicting advice but I felt confident in what I was doing and she was a very happy and content baby.”

Latest research has shown that Elizabeth’s approach to feeding could have many benefits for children.

The first large-scale study into the long-term outcomes of schedule versus demand-fed babies was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, and at the University of Oxford.

Findings showed that babies who are breast-fed or bottle-fed to a schedule do not perform academically as well at school as their demand-fed peers.

Based on the results of IQ tests and school-based SATs tests, carried out between the ages of five and 14, show that demand-feeding was associated with an increase of IQ scores of between four and five points.

Dr Maria Iacovou, who led the research from ISER, says: “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 fifteenth, might be, with an improvement of four or five IQ points, ranked higher, at about eleventh or twelfth in the class."

Until further research is done it is unclear why this increase in IQ occurs.

Dr Iacovou, says: “At this stage, 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.

“One hypothesise is that baby’s brain because grow fast frequently feeding can help with development. Another is that babies do not have that much they can enjoy except feeding. By asking for and receiving food it could make them interact at an earlier stage than if they get food ‘randomly’at set intervals.”

Elizabeth who has three children Gracie, 11, Jessica, 10, Genevieve, two, and a baby she plans to name Vincent due to be born in June, admits that feeding on demand is not always easy.

She says: “With Genevieve I would have her with me all the time and could breastfeed when she wanted. Sometimes in cluster feeds - four or five times an hour and other times she would maybe not eat for longer.

“It was hard for me because it is more involved in one way but them I found she quickly found her own patterns and was very relaxed.

“With Gracie and Jessica it was harder because they were bottle-fed and that meant strelising the bottle and making the formula very quickly when they want to feed.”

Although Elizabeth is vocal and confident about the technique now this was not always the case.

Elizabeth, who lives in Southend, says:“When I had Gracie and Jessica I still fed them on demand but I was shy about admitting it to friends who were all feeding to a schedule.

“Also, I was not as informed about feeding on demand and the benefits then. By the time I had Genevieve I had read many research books, and felt confident about what I was doing.

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