Monday, August 22, 2011

Breast Feeding, Oral Fixation, and Cigarette Smoking

Smoking is an outward signal of inner turmoil or conflict and most smoking has less to do with nicotine addiction and more to do with the need for reassurance. It is one of the displacement activities that people use in today's high-pressure society to release the tensions that build up from social and business encounters. For example, most people experience inner tension while waiting outside the dentist's surgery to have a tooth removed. While a smoker might cover up his anxiety by sneaking out for a smoke, non-smokers perform other rituals such as grooming, gum-chewing, nail-biting, finger-and foot-tapping, cufflink-adjusting, head-scratching, playing with something, or other gestures that tell us they need reassurance. Jewelry is also popular for exactly the same reason - it has high fondle value and allows its owner to displace their insecurity, fear, impatience or lack of confidence onto the item.

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Studies now show a clear relationship between whether an infant was breast-fed and its likelihood of becoming a smoker as an adult. It was found that babies who were largely bottle-fed represent the majority of adult smokers and the heaviest smokers, while the longer a baby was breast-fed, the less chance there was that it would become a smoker. It seems that breast-fed babies receive comfort and bonding from the breast that is unattainable from a bottle, the consequence being that the bottle-fed babies, as adults, continue the search for comfort by sucking things. Smokers use their cigarettes for the same reason as the child who sucks his blanket or thumb.

Not only were smokers three times more likely to have been thumb-suckers as children, they have also been shown to be more neurotic than non-smokers and to experience oral fixations such as sucking the arm of their glasses, nail-biting, pen-munching, lip-biting and enough pencil-chewing to embarrass an average beaver. Clearly, many desires, including the urge to suck and feel secure, were satisfied in breast-fed babies but not in bottle-fed babies.

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That correlates was famous basic theory developed by Sigmund Freud, where there are five stages in the early development of a child that give an unconscious drive to the child’s actions. Spanning the life period from birth to the age of 21 months, the oral stage is the first of the five Freudian psychosexual development stages: (i) the Oral, (ii) the Anal, (iii) the Phallic, (iv) the Latent, and (v) the Genital. Failure to receive sufficient amounts of gratification or to overindulge during these stages leads to a fixation that will follow the child through adulthood. “The sexual aim of the infantile instance consists in obtaining satisfaction by means of an appropriate stimulation”.

The first stage a child encounters, the oral stage, is what gives the child the instinct to suck for both physical and emotional nourishment. The suck helps an infant during breastfeeding, the primary way for receive food. Therefore, failure to completely gratify the urges during the oral stage will lead to oral fixations. Such fixations range from nail biting to excessive eating, a sarcastic personality to smoking. It is true, that Freud's theories are largely criticized now by specialists as lacking in substantial corroborative data. However, Freud was using a model to describe observed behavior and his ideas may thus still be used as metaphors for actual developmental issues.

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Based on these findings, some highly credible organizations, such as UNICEF (1990), have recommended that women exclusively breast-feed for at least six months before transferring to bottle feeding.

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