I fed my daughter on demand up until she started eating solids at six months – then I endeavoured to get her into a routine of set meal times.
So of course I'm going to be in support of this latest finding aren't I – well kind of.
I'm in support of any study which comes out in favour of demand feeding because in my opinion it is at once the most natural and logical way to feed your little one. Natural because you have to remember milk in those first six months is baby's main meal, snack and drink. Humans are creatures of habit and tend to eat their main meals at similar times of the day but I bet few people snack and drink at set times. It is natural a baby should call to be fed, and thus watered, at varied times of the day.
Logical because of almost the same reasons really. If you set your baby a timetable where they must feed every three hours I think I can safely say there are times during that three hour slot when your baby starts to get a bit tetchy and is probably thinking in its little mind, I could do with a drink right now. Logic told me, why put a baby through this period of agony for the sake of routine when in its later life when it asks for a drink you will probably give it one, and the same for a snack, within reason. There is no point torturing the poor child.
But how about order and discipline I hear some of you cry? That comes later I respond, with a wink. It's a tight run ship around my house these days. Mealtimes, nap times and bedtimes are always at the same times and I can't cope with diversion, but the routine we stick to is one based on my observations of when on average my daughter becomes hungry, thirsty and tired. It is not a routine aimed at manipulating against how she would behave naturally. She is completely happy with the schedule I make her keep because when it's time to eat, she's hungry, when it's nap time, she's tired.
If I had run rough shod from the beginning, devising a routine without the vital period of observation when I took in what would work for her, it would never had been such a success.
However, in those first few months you feed your baby when they wants it. You get to know when they're crying out of hunger and not for anything else and I think it makes for a much more contented, happy baby and a much more contented, happy mummy.
Those six months are nothing in your child's life so if it is a bit hectic and you feel you are always feeding, remember you will look back and in the grand scheme of things it will seem a tiny sacrifice.
This new study has found that those children who are fed on demand when they need it are more likely to grow up having a higher IQ and perform better at school, compared to those fed according to a schedule. In actual fact, the previously demand fed children were found to have a IQ of four or five points higher, which is not huge but nevertheless significant.
What media reports on this have not been explicit about is why they develop higher IQs. I will surmise it is because they are allowed to make vital decisions early in life and are rewarded for making their needs known. Therefore they are actively engaging with their environments while schedule fed babies will in contrast be more passive because they are not given the opportunity to ask for food, it is simply given to them at set times whether they want it then or not.
This study is however too simplistic for my liking. It is impossible, I believe, to reduce this issue down into a simple cause and effect. I think there are more factors at work here.
Dare I say, the type of parents who feed their babies on demand are likely to be more intelligent themselves because it is the more considered option, and therefore there is more chance they will produce more intelligent children.
Also, I would be interested to see how many of these demand fed babies were breast fed rather than bottle fed. I would expect a higher proportion were breast fed simply because breast feeding and demand feeding work very well in tandem together. Breast fed babies don't take in as much milk at a feed as bottle fed babies and so are more inclined to require feeding more often.
Again, breast feeding tends to be the feeding method of choice by the more educated because they are more informed about the major health benefits of breast milk. Also, breast milk is such an amazing substance it is bound to contain brain boosting properties.
I by no means wish to dismiss this latest study because it has put across a very important message of the benefits of demand feeding but it's not solely about producing a more intelligent child, its benefits are far greater than that.