Babies and school: your row?

Teamwork - down to how these girls were fed as babies, or a teachable skill?

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.Where are you in the new baby war battle – demand feeding so your baby thrives or scheduling meals so you can handle being a mum? For more info about parenting see my book Homemade Kids, or for my website click here

You probably knew whose side you were on in the latest baby war battle even before you read the front page Observer story((cleverly timed for mother’s day 2012) about “Babies fed on demand ‘do better at school'” by Lucy Rock, see here.

So wedded am I to my view-point that I even managed to misread the first para, so saw: “It is a debate that has raged for years pitying mothers who follow Gina Ford and her routine-based approach…”

(Oops, it actually said pitted, not pitying!)

“Pitted mothers… against those who prefer the more laid back ways… and fed on demand.”

I think if you ‘ve ever watched a mother animal dealing with her very young progeny, then you’d be pretty certain that demand feeding is an instinct. It also suits any woman who isn’t being forced back to work or having to rely on other people to handle their childcare.

This massive study from the Institute for Social and Economic Research based at the University of Essex (see report PR here) of babies from eight weeks to 33 months claims its sample of 10,000 children in the Bristol area, born in the early 1990s shows that demand-fed children (both in breast-fed and formula-fed children) have a four or five point higher IQ.

In other words demand-fed babies go on to do better at school.

It’s an important study because it takes into account all sorts of background factors including family income, parental educational levels, the baby’s sex and age plus maternal health and parenting styles (smacking/responding).

The link to the European Journal of Public Health where this article was first posted on 14 March is here.

The study also found that mums who demand feed their babies score less highly on the wellbeing chart. In other words the mums are worn out, a little bit grumpy, even irritable. Some might say for the sake of four or five IQ points who cares? But if this finally nails the hideous habit of an older woman leaning over to your hungry baby and saying “you are spoiling that child,” “he/she’s got you wrapped around your finger,” then that’s good. The only hiccup in this is that now  proud grannies may start tutting at scheduled baby feeding claiming this mummy-centric approach is going to cost a fortune in the long run if it means the child will need tutors and still loose scholarships.

As is ever the case with the mummy wars, it is hard to have a baby and be on the winning side: whether you demand feed, or not. As I tried very hard to convey in Homemade Kids, my book about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise your child, “all babies need is love, food and a safe place to live.”

The real business of knowing how well you’ve raised your children is not going to be school results, but how well you’ve managed to raise them to adapt to the challenges of peak oil and climate change. I still think this means kids who grow up to be cooperative, really good at solving problems and a dab hand at skills like cooking, mending and knowing where to find what’s needed without breaking the bank. What I’m finding with a 13 and 11 year old is often the demands of school hours and school work get in the way of these essential skills.

Over to you
What’s your take on this latest round in the mummy wars?

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3 Comments on “Babies and school: your row?”

  1. homemadekids Says:

    From Facebook:
    Penny “It’s such a load of nonsense. How do you do
    research that singles out feeding from all of the other issues and conditions and come to any sensible conclusion?
    I demand fed and like you say, it nearly killed me.I went back to work when the kids were a few months old and express fed them. Lunacy! I think that kids do well at school for a variety of reasons and some of the least intelligent people I know did extremely well at school. I resent anything that makes mothers feel more guilty than they do already!”

    Howard “OK I can’t breast feed – but I can nurture and I get forever hacked off by the ignoring of the place of the father in all this child rearing debating. Yes mine were demand breast fed and I worked like a nutter to make that possible, but I also made sure I worked from home most of the time (90%+) and cooked most of the evening family meals as a result. I don’t want a medal for it but it would be nice if once in a while discussions such as this focused on both parents…”

    Nicola Baird “Yes, gd point Howard clearly having a supportive dad must make it better for a family. But like Sainsbury sandwiches only have calories for an adult female (and child) listed (I’m guessing because it’s women that calorie count), the baby wars stories tend to undermine mums (because it’s mums that tend to stress about what they’re doing right, rather than being confident that they are doing it right).”

    Pete May “All babies need is love, food and a safe place to live.” Quite agree. Parenting is a bit like football – a simple game overcomplicated by tactics! And good point Howard about Dad Power too…


  2. […] Read this article: Babies and school: your row? « Homemade Kids […]

  3. nicola baird Says:

    More from Facebook:
    Nicola Baird” Parenting is like football?? Everything is like football Pete May! BTW I’m quoting you back at yourself!”

    Howard “Well if parenting is a ‘game of 2 halves’ then the mums half get all the kudos, whilst the dads half get all the suspicion and negative press IMHO!”


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