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Babies' Head Growth, Weight Gain Linked to Higher IQ

JanuaryScrunchyFaceMy giggly little guy started out with a head size that was about average. Fast forward a few months and Scrunchy Face’s head circumference is approaching the 90th percentile while my fingers are aching from trying to squeeze T-shirts over him that were clearly meant for kids with smaller melons.

I’m convinced that on some harried morning, we’ll leave the house with a shirt still obscuring his face and I’ll be forced to make up  excuses like “Oh, he just felt shy today” and “Didn’t you hear? It’s the latest trend in baby fashion! Actually seeing your infants’ eyes is SO last year.”

But there’s good news for me — and you too if your baby’s head, along with his weight, are super-sizing before your eyes. New research from the University of Adelaide in Australia shows that growth in head circumference and weight gain can be linked to higher IQ.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 13,800 children who were born full-term and found that babies who put on 40 percent of their birth weight in their first four weeks of life scored 1.5 points higher on IQ tests by the time they were six than those who put on just 15 percent of their birth weight.

The kids with the highest IQs were the ones who had the biggest growth in head circumference early on.

“Head circumference is an indicator of brain volume, so a greater increase in head circumference in a newborn baby suggests more rapid brain growth,” the lead author of the study, Dr Lisa Smithers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Population Health, said in a statement released by the university.

Researchers also found that those with the most weight gain had the highest verbal IQ by age 6, something they said could be attributed to the fact that “neural structures for verbal IQ develop earlier in life.”

The findings on head circumference and intelligence, at least, don’t appear to be the first of their kind. A smaller study of 633 full-term British babies found that those with the most head growth by age 1 scored the highest on IQ tests, CBS News reported in 2006.

It’s a little early to tell if Scrunchy Face’s heaving head and propensity for poundage — as I’ve written before, he’s a bit of a chubster — means it’s time to reserve him a spot on “Jeopardy!” Thus far, his most brilliant achievement seems to be having avoided peeing on his own face for the last two months.  I’m so proud.

On a more serious note: Smithers said that the study highlights the importance of successfully feeding newborns, including breastfed ones.

“We know that many mothers have difficulty establishing breastfeeding in the first weeks of their baby’s life,” she said. “The findings of our study suggest that if infants are having feeding problems, there needs to be early intervention in the management of that feeding.”

The study’s results were published in the journal Pediatrics.

 

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More from Alice:

Do Older Dads Make Better Dads?

Cute Baby Clothes for an Ailing But Spirited City

Mama’s Night Out: How a Baby’s Mom Really Parties

7 Baby Fashion Faux Pas I Won’t Apologize For

Popping Bottles: Rap Video Celebrates Breastfeeding, Babysitting

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