Big Baby, Smart Baby: New Study Links Birth Weight to Academic Success

mom-and-babyBy Kellie Doligale

Many mothers agree that the last month of pregnancy is an immense struggle.

With swollen, tired bodies, they wade through those final weeks wondering, “Is today going to be the day?”

A high percentage of women will have a conversation with their OBGYN about inducing labor.

But what if waiting longer will ultimately allow your baby to have a better life?

An article published by the New York Times in October 2014 focused on a study that suggests babies with a higher weight at birth perform better in school.

So are bigger babies actually smarter babies?

Northwestern University professor and co-author of the study David N. Figlio explained that birth weight is a significant factor in overall wellness for anyone.

The study is based on documentation taken on every child born in Florida during an 11-year span.

With a variety of factors accounted for, including education level, race and age of the parents, the study generally concludes that on average, babies weighing close to 10 pounds at birth scored in the 57th percentile on average on math and reading tests administered between the third and eighth grades.

Babies within the same parameters but weighing close to only 6 pounds at birth scored in the 43rd percentile on average.

Though the study’s four authors published their findings with an overall consensus that larger and therefore healthier babies performed better in school, they also agree that other factors observed are important to their findings.

A small child of college graduates is more likely to perform well in school than a large child of parents who dropped out of high school.

Additionally, government nutrition programs make it easier for less privileged parents to still have healthy pregnancies.

Studies like this one call into question a debate that’s been gathering steam in recent years regarding the level of medical intervention in childbirth.

Babies typically gain a quarter-pound per week during the last stages of pregnancy.

As a general rule, larger babies appear healthier for every pound they weigh, and test scores tend to match up accordingly.

This study gives further support to letting labor progress naturally.

For years, the belief was that once a baby reached a particular weight and gestation in the womb, he or she was fine to be born any time.

Due to those generalizations, women received more inductions and C-Sections than ever.

Today, approximately half of all births are subjected to one of these hastening processes.

However, since 2011, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been pushing to cease induced labor before the 39th week unless a clear medical reason makes it necessary.

Since then, induction rates have dropped.

Many inductions are still elective, coming before the mother’s water has broken or a medical problem arises.

Parents simply want to meet their children, and it’s more convenient to do that on a schedule they are controlling.

In spite of a mother’s eagerness, the research indicates that more time in the womb is beneficial overall for the fetus.

Babies are safe, peaceful and easily nourished in utero.

By letting more babies arrive on their own terms, mothers may be giving them a jump-start in life.
Kellie Doligale is mother to 3-year-old Evelyn and documents their adventures in cooking, home projects and life on her blog,