Does Breastfeeding Make Babies Smarter?

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breastfeeding
27.06.2022
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Abstract

The paper represents research on the issue of breastfeeding and its impact on the degree of the baby’s smartness and development of his/her intellectual qualities. The essential findings from the analysis of the scholarly articles demonstrate that breastfeeding is not directly connected to the development of the baby’s smartness and intellectual qualities, but it mostly serves as a basis for the further improvement of these traits in a child. It means that the probability of the higher level of the child’s smartness development is more evident if the child was breastfed at the early stages of his/her development. The review of literature on the subject matter of the paper has proven that there is a significant gap in the study on the issue as the research results are often hard to prove with evidence. Furthermore, the articles chosen for the current research indicate the fact that breastfeeding is positive for a child rather than negative; however, it does not impact directly the degree of child’s smartness, but rather influences the factors that are directly connected to smartness (for instance, the emotional area).

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Section 1

Background of Topic

The essence of the problem of breastfeeding lies in the fact that, despite the efforts that have already been made, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding remains insufficient. This problem has emerged based on the fact that breastfeeding provides full nutrition, protection from infections and harmonious development of the child in the first six months of life. According to the most recent report of the WHO Global Breastfeeding Data Bank, only about 35% of all infants receive exclusive breastfeeding between the ages of 0 and 4 months (Bernard et al., 2017). The statistics is based on the information obtained in 94 countries with 65% of the world’s total number of infants (Bernard et al., 2017). This number is extremely low. Furthermore, the most recent investigations on the breastfeeding benefits point to the fact that the degree of children’s smartness is higher if they are properly breastfed. In this case, it is important to understand the link between breastfeeding and development of the baby’s smartness. In fact, not many studies demonstrate that breastfeeding has any impact on the smartness of a child; however, there are some investigations that prove that breastfeeding forms numerous intellectual processes at the early level of the baby’s mental development. Hence, it is paramount to examine this issue further by means of the qualitative research which is presented in the current paper. Problem Statement

Breastfeeding often becomes an arguable question because it is difficult to find out whether it is totally positive or absolutely negative for a child or whether it has any drawbacks at all. Hence, it is significant to identify the relationship between the duration of breastfeeding and the emotional problems of the child in the future (aggressiveness, anxiety, conflict, communication problems, sleep disorders, stuttering, enuresis, etc.). In order to understand whether the breastfeeding process has any impact on the child’s smartness, it is necessary to study, evaluate and analyze the already existing literature. The chosen approach is related to the fact that when referring to the psychological literature regarding the process of breastfeeding, it becomes clear that most often the emphasis is laid on the emotional component, which is also related to the level of baby’s smartness. Thus, the paper examines the problem of breastfeeding and its impact on the baby’s smartness development. This issue needs to be studied more thoroughly, as there is not much data on the issue and no exact conclusions have yet been made.

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Hypothesis

The working hypothesis of the paper can be defined in the following way:

H0: Breastfeeding has no relation to the intelligence development of a child (or a baby).

H1: Children who receive breast milk from their mothers after birth will demonstrate higher level of intelligence compared to children who received formula. Operational Definitions

Breastfeeding? is a process of nutrition of a child when the milk goes directly from a mother’s breast to a child.

Lure is food that is introduced into the baby’s diet from the age of 6 months and is used in addition to breastfeeding.

Child development is a period during which the child’s abilities develop, including cognitive, linguistic, social, learning and emotional abilities, as well as the small and large motor skills. This term can be replaced with the notion of a baby’s smartness.

Section 2. Literature Review

It is possible to identify the primary sources which contain much data to support the research evidence provided. The purpose of the Literature Review is to identify the supporting details and gaps in the topic issue which can be found in the literature studied. The analysis of the two primary sources indicates that there is a significant gap in the study on the issue of breastfeeding in the existing literature. Numerous investigations, which have been explored, do not give an exact answer to the question of whether breastfeeding is interrelated with the baby’s smartness. The existing gap is impossible to be handled at once as it requires numerous investigations; however, it is possible to analyze the existing data to understand the general trends in finding an appropriate solution to the problem.

The nervous-mental development of children on natural feeding supersedes the development of children on bottle feeding, although these differences are somewhat blurred when using modern adapted formulas in children’s nutrition. According to the study by Lee et al. (2016), during the first days of life, children who receive breast milk are more active emotionally and mentally. The first stage of socialization of the child tends to take place in the environment of the so-called ‘benevolent stimulation’. Lee et al. (2016) point to the fact that a baby’s smartness is directly connected with the following process. The authors have a strong conviction that the infant receives positive stimuli from the mother during breast sucking, jiggling and strokes, and enters the most complex and purely human individual path of the formation of soul and personality (Lee et al., 2016). In addition to this, the scholars believe that breastfeeding has its long-term consequences, which are manifested in the positive effect of breastfeeding on the development of the child’s cognitive abilities, intelligence and numerous personality traits. According to the study by Lee et al. (2016), a significantly higher coefficient of intellectual development and better learning abilities were demonstrated by schoolchildren who were fed with mother’s milk in the early childhood. The least number of cases of deviant behavior, including the antisocial patterns, was observed in the group of schoolchildren who received breast milk for 11-24 months (Lee et al., 2016). It proves the strong conviction of Lee et al. (2016) that breastfeeding is directly connected with the development of a baby’s smartness and influences it in a positive manner if a child is breastfed instead of using the bottle nutrition or formula. The research conducted by Lee et al. (2016) is directly related to the topic issue of the current paper as it is focused on the link between breastfeeding and the baby’s smartness development. In any case, the research by Lee et al. (2016) also points to the existing gaps in relation to the problem and denotes the idea that there is an urgent need in studying the problem more profoundly. The value of the study by Lee et al. (2016) consists in the fact that it contains much important data on the topic issue and reveals the exact statistics on how breastfeeding positively influences the development of the child’s smartness both at the early age and in the future periods of the child’s development.

Another primary source, which is used for the current literature review, states that breastfeeding is hardly connected with the mental and intellectual development of a child. However, the source states that breastfeeding is essential for many other processes in child development (Rochat et al., 2016). According to the study by Rochat et al. (2016, p. 2), the connection between breastfeeding and the child’s cognitive and intellectual development is “associated with fewer than average conduct disorders and weakly associated with improved cognitive development in boys.” In addition, the authors have a strong conviction that the “efforts to improve stimulation at home, reduce maternal stress, and enable cr?che attendance are likely to improve executive function and emotional-behavioral development of children” (Rochat et al., 2016, p. 2). The authors draw a link between these emotional spheres and the fact of breastfeeding (or the opposite) at the early stages of the baby’s life. According to the research by Rochat et al. (2016), it is possible to admit that the review of theories on the child’s early development allows the scholars to distinguish three main positions of researchers regarding the psychological aspects of the duration of breastfeeding and its impact on the baby’s smartness development. Firstly, Rochat et al. (2016) point to the fact that the child should be breastfed for up to 1 year (direct indication of age or emphasis on switching to a different and less emotional level of interaction). A new level of relationships becomes possible due to the development of the child’s increasing autonomy and independence, which are developed gradually. It happens as a result of the development of walking abilities, autonomous speech and consciousness, and the emergence of prerequisites for personality development. Each of these components, as Rochat et al. (2016) believe, are not exactly and directly influenced by the process of breastfeeding but are somewhat related to it. The authors believe that the child actively develops in the surrounding world, interacts with objects, seeks to show independence (both in actions and in desires) similarly to the way a child maintains a contact with the mother’s breast (Rochat et al., 2016). A one-year-old child is able to secede from his/her mother for a while, significantly expanding the circle of communication (which was primarily based on the process of breastfeeding, i.e. the contact between a child and a mother) (Rochat et al., 2016). However, in the course of time, the emotional contact with the mother subsides. Corporal contact is replaced by verbal communication (Rochat et al., 2016). According to the study, the first year of life is the age of the formation of attachment to a caring adult (and as a result, the formation of a working model for oneself and others) that determines the success of building relationships with the outside world depending on the level of smartness development (Rochat et al., 2016). If a mother breastfeeds for too long, it would indicate her inability to keep a distance from the child for some reason. As a result, the child begins to control and manipulate the adult, which is another manifestation of the level of the baby’s smartness development.

Secondly, Rochat et al. (2016) state that the process of breastfeeding should be carried out for more than 1 year. Feeding after the age of 1 year is meant to meet the needs of the child, helping him/her to relieve stress, facilitating family relationships, and strengthening communication with the mother (Rochat et al., 2016). This is the period during which the child develops a sense of security that allows him/her to build harmonious relationships with other people (Rochat et al., 2016). This aspect may be somehow related to breastfeeding, but Rochat et al. (2016) claim that it is not directly connected with it.

The description of the three highlighted positions shows that the authors directly or indirectly indicate that close emotional relations with the mother lose their relevance in the second year of the child’s life. Therefore, for the normal development of the child, it is important to move to a new stage of relationships with adults, wherein the child learns new ways of communication and interaction, including a new style of nutrition, which might serve as an index of the baby’s smartness as well.

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Section 3. Annotated Bibliography

Belfort, M. B., Anderson, P. J., Nowak, V. A., Lee, K. J., Molesworth, C., Thompson, D. K., … & Inder, T. E. (2016). Breast milk feeding, brain development, and neurocognitive outcomes: A 7-year longitudinal study in infants born at less than 30 weeks’ gestation. The Journal of Pediatrics, 177, 133-139.

The article examines the issue of harmonious physical, emotional and intellectual development of a child. According to the authors, these aspects are the main indicators of smartness development in children as a result of breastfeeding. A healthy child is mobile, energetic, and curious, which is the main manifestation of smartness. The child easily adapts to environmental conditions. The authors of the investigation believe that it is important to take into account that the main feature of children’s age is the intensity of growth and development. The younger the child, the more intensively these processes take place. The authors also suggest that the terms ‘physical development’ and ‘mental development’ in pediatrics are understood as the process of increasing growth, mass, development of individual parts of the body and biological maturation of the child in different periods of childhood. Improper nutrition of children at an early age leads to frequent illnesses. This can be explained by the reduced resistance to infections, which also leads to a backlog in physical and psychosocial development. Many of these effects have an impact on the entire subsequent life of a person. Analysis of the nonconformity between physical growth and mental development of infants shows that appropriate nourishment and rational feeding of newborns and young children is the most essential aspect responsible for the state of health, and physical and mental development of the child. It is significant to mention that children grow especially quickly in the first year of life. In the course of the child’s life, the important stages include the introduction of complementary foods (lure) and the transition to food from the family table instead of the breast milk. The period of complementary feeding (lure), i.e. supplementing breastfeeding with other foods, is the time when the baby is especially sensitive to malnutrition. This is due to the fact that children quickly grow and develop, but still tend not to eat in large quantities. Consequently, in order to provide an adequate amount of nutrients, the food a child eats must be highly nutritious. It is necessary to pay more attention to the role of harmonizing nutrition. For a child right after birth, the focal nutrients for breast-fed newborns are zinc, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and in some cases folate, thiamine, calcium, and vitamin C. For populations living in the areas with insufficient exposure to sunlight or vitamin D, the data is different. In order to identify the existing problems and develop tactics to prevent deterioration of health and postponed growth of children, it is necessary to regularly monitor the practice of breastfeeding, feeding schemes and nutritional tatusom infants and young children. Hence, all these substances have a direct impact on the smartness development of a child. The authors agree on the fact that breastfeeding is the basis of the proper development of the smartness of a child.

Bernard, J. Y., Armand, M., Peyre, H., Garcia, C., Forhan, A., De Agostini, M., … & EDEN Mother-Child Cohort Study Group. (2017). Breastfeeding, polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in colostrum and child intelligence quotient at age 5-6 Years. The Journal of Pediatrics, 183, 43-50.

The research points out that the contact ‘skin to skin’ from the first minutes of a child’s life is significant. Hence, the authors believe that breastfeeding initiated in the first 30-60 minutes after birth as well as the feeding on demand can alleviate the condition of children during the adaptation period and improve the forecast of further physical, nervous and mental development. In the period when the smartness of a child is formed, it prevents negative consequences of the low level of child’s development and increases the mental development, as well as contributes to the establishment of close and caring relationships between mother and child. Thus, the authors believe that the duration of breastfeeding cannot be regulated in regard to the development of the baby’s smartness. This is largely a matter of personal relationships with the child. Age of weaning does not matter. It is important for the mother to be ready for this without depriving the child of physical contact and explaining verbally why she does it. Hence, the authors insist on the fact that there is no exact connection between breastfeeding and the development of the baby’s intellectual traits; however, they are still based on the way the child is fed at the beginning of his/her life.

Brahm, P., & Vald?s, V. (2017). The benefits of breastfeeding and associated risks of replacement with baby formulas. Revista Chilena de Pediatria, 88(1), 7.

The authors draw a connection between the development of the child’s smartness and breastfeeding by focusing on the role of hormones. Hormones of stress, acting in the perinatal period and during the first year of life, participate in the formation of the brain. Abnormal levels of these hormones during brain development can serve as harmful factors that may cause physiological and/or psychological disturbances of the brain functions in later life. The research points to the fact that the development of human brain including smartness lasts for up to three years. Therefore, stress experienced during this period of life leads to a lag, and consequently to the developmental disability. As a result, in the cerebral cortex of the brain of children who have been subjected to cruel or ill treatment, the zones responsible for emotions are 20-30% less than in the brain of healthy children. Furthermore, the hippocampus, which controls memory, is smaller in the brain of adults who experienced violence in childhood. To avoid this, there should be a constant contact between a mother and a child in the process of breastfeeding. It is suggested that the negative outcomes are presumably caused by the toxic effects of cortisol. Increased cortisol levels in highly sensitive children at the age of up to three years increase the activity of those parts of the brain that control a sense of alertness and aggression. As a result, the brain is in constant anxiety and readiness to rebuff at the slightest memory of the initial trauma (or the presence of its culprit), in which case once affected areas of the brain are reactivated. Insignificant stress or slight fear can provoke a new release of cortisol. This leads to anxiety, hyperactivity, and increased impulsivity. Thus, the mental development and smartness suffer from these processes. In areas of the brain affected by stress hormones, there is a malfunction in the system of neurohumoral regulation, which can lead to the decrease of cognitive abilities. Violations of behavior are also observed. The stress experienced in early childhood during breastfeeding may have both long-term and immediate consequences. The immediate consequences of stress in infants are revealed in the inadequate response to external stimuli; giving up the breast; delayed growth of mass; somatic pain; and sleep disturbances. They can be caused by vicissitudes in hormonal homeostasis. Excessive stress of the mother can even put an end to the milk separation, and, consequently, lead to additional stress caused by starvation and insufficient intake of valuable substances in the child’s body.

Girard, L. C., Doyle, O., & Tremblay, R. E. (2017). Breastfeeding, cognitive and non-cognitive development in early childhood: A population study. Pediatrics, e20161848.

The authors of the research have a strong conviction that the physical contact of the mother and child after birth and in the following days and months of breastfeeding provide the infant with a sense of security and confidence in maternal support. This aspect positively impacts the development of the baby’s smartness. The absence of physical contact between the mother and the child leads to a decrease in the activity of sucking, rejection of the breast, the appearance of a feeling of mistrust towards others, a negative attitude towards the outside world, the loss of sensory landmarks, and the violation of the perception of one’s own self. Breastfeeding creates all the conditions for a more close contact between the mother and the child, forming the closest relationship, which persists for many years. In particular, for a young mother, the natural feeding of a child is the best and the only way to form maternal behavior and develop maternal feelings, positively influencing the development of her child’s smartness. The levels of maternal care and anxiety, the degree of response to the child’s needs, the degree of reaction to a real or potential threat, the accuracy of intuitive behavior regarding the child’s needs, the non-saturated need for communication with the child and the joy of long-term communication are all determined not by birth but exclusively by applying the baby to the mother’s breast.

Lee, H., Park, H., Ha, E., Hong, Y. C., Ha, M., Park, H., … & Kim, J. H. (2016). Effect of breastfeeding duration on cognitive development in infants: 3-year follow-up study. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 31(4), 579-584.

When depicting the link between the development of the child’s smartness and breastfeeding, the authors believe that applying to the breast is the best way to compensate the child’s stresses, so that the baby calms down very quickly, forgetting about his/her grief and negative experience. According to the authors, a newborn child is endowed with the ability to experience the same emotions as his/her mother does, and the baby needs to communicate with her. For the full communication between the mother and the child, the act of breastfeeding is of utmost importance, provided it is sufficiently long and carried out without haste. The child should suck the mother’s breast until he/she is satisfied with the sucking process. Response of the mother by feeding refers not only to hunger, but also to anxiety. It also forms the atmosphere of love and security for the child, without which it is impossible to fully develop his/her personality as a person, including the development of his/her intellectual abilities and psyche.

Rochat, T. J., Houle, B., Stein, A., Coovadia, H., Coutsoudis, A., Desmond, C., … & Bland, R. M. (2016). Exclusive breastfeeding and cognition, executive function, and behavioural disorders in primary school-aged children in rural South Africa: A cohort analysis. PLoS Medicine, 13(6), 1-30.

The study explores the way of how the breastfeeding process is linked with the smartness development of babies. The authors have a strong conviction that the “higher-order cognitive function, termed executive function, is critical for later development, particularly the ability to function in society” (Rochat et al., 2016, p. 3). Furthermore, the scholars who composed the article believe that the “executive function coordinates and controls information processing, which is important for a child’s ability to manage emotions and behavior, to follow rules, to concentrate, and to form friendships” (Rochat et al., 2016, p. 3). Naturally, with such a degree of mother-infant connection in the process of breastfeeding, a whole complex of even more complicated psycho-physiological relations is formed as a basis for the future socialization of the child. Consequently, the dependence of the child on the mother’s milk will decrease, but the psycho-physiological connection formed as a result of their physical and emotional communication, as well as the mother-child relationship, will remain for the lifetime in the form of intra-family relations, intergenerational relationships and, perhaps, in social functioning as a whole.

Section 4: Methods

Data Analysis

The data is analyzed by means of the comparative method. This method helps understand the difference and connection between the studies chosen. It also assists in evaluating the gaps which exist in the research on the topic issue of the current paper.

How Was the Data Collected?

The data was collected via the search tools at the google.scholar.com website. The publications listed on the website were chosen according to two important criteria: the year of publication and contents of the scholarly articles in relation to the topic of the current research. Describe the Sample

The sample is represented by six scholarly articles which cover the question of how breastfeeding makes the babies smarter. The articles chosen have been published within the last 5 years and can be considered the new ones as they contain the latest investigations on the topic. Evidence or Prevention of Bias

The data obtained from the articles chosen was analyzed in accordance with the evidence-based and bias-free approaches. How Was Reliability and Validity Addressed

The reliability and validity of the research were addressed by means of analyzing the factual data obtained. The scholarly articles chosen were published in the scientific journals; hence, the data taken from them can be regarded as reliable and valid. Study Limitations

The study is characterized by only one limitation, which is the gap in the knowledge on the topic issue of the research. It means that the lack of information had a negative impact on the fullness of the analysis of the data. Research Findings

The findings showed that the majority of the scholars are strongly convinced that breastfeeding does not influence the smartness of children directly. Similarly, the level of the baby’s smartness is generally grounded on the fact of breastfeeding rather than the use of formulas. Hence, none of the hypotheses of the paper has been proved. Research Results

According to the articles analyzed in the paper, there is no direct link between the process of breastfeeding and the development of the baby’s smartness or their impact on each other. On the contrary, the majority of the articles chosen for the current research state that breastfeeding mostly has a positive influence on both physical and psychological development of a child; however, it does not impact the development of smartness or intellectual qualities a child is likely to possess in the future. Implications

The main implication of the given study was to understand whether breastfeeding has an impact on the development of the baby’s smartness and intellectual qualities. According to the results obtained, breastfeeding positively influences a child in general but it does not produce a direct impact on the way the smartness of a baby develops. Significance

The study is significant because it analyzed the most recent findings on the issue of breastfeeding and its impact on the development of the baby’s smartness and intellectual qualities. Regardless of the existing gap in the knowledge on this topic, it was possible to make some important conclusions regarding the fact that breastfeeding is not a decisive component which influences the mental development of the child, including his/her cognitive and intellectual abilities and smartness. Summary of Critique

The critique and analysis of the articles chosen have proved that breastfeeding does not have any substantial impact on the development of the baby’s smartness and intellectual qualities. The articles chosen contain much quantitative data on how the development of smartness is not linked to the act of breastfeeding. The essential idea examined in all of the articles consists in the fact that breastfeeding is a firm basis for the child’s proper development, but it does not have any impact on the child’s smartness. Strengths of This Study for Application in Professional Practice

The current study helps better understand the factors which tend to impact the children’s development afterbirth. In addition, the findings of the current research also help better understand the benefits of breastfeeding and the way it influences the child’s growth and development. Limitations of This Study for Application in Professional Practice

The limitations of this study for its application in professional practice consist mainly in the lack of literature on the topic issue. In fact, the search for scholarly works showed that the topic of breastfeeding and its connection with the baby’s smartness development has not been studied to full extent and, as a result, there are not many investigations on this matter. Hence, the results obtained can limit the professional practice to a certain extent as they are not based on the numerous literature works studied. Hence, the available knowledge can be applied when working with the pregnant women and the women who have already given birth to a child to raise their awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. Ideas Generated for Future Research

The future research can be devoted to the other aspects, which may be related to pregnancy or the afterbirth factors. This area of study should comprise the behavior of the mother during pregnancy or the way the possible shortcomings of pregnancy manifest themselves and impact the development of a child. In addition, one of the most interesting sides of the child’s development is the genetic predisposition to a higher or lower intellectual level of the baby’s development. Finally, by combining each of the mentioned future research ideas, it is possible to investigate the issue of child’s intelligence from various perspectives as the problem of intelligence and smartness is extremely profound and versatile.

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