Sigmund Freud’s Oral Stage Length of Breastfeeding in Infants

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According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an infant is a child between the age of zero to one.  These infants are categorized by a series of physical, social, cognitive, and language developments. Physical developments begin with the ability to see objects from ten inches away. Then, as the child reaches four months of age they begin to have more control over their nervous system and muscle function, including holding their head upright and grasping objects such as someone’s finger. Moreover, as they reach six months of age they are able to sit without support, roll over towards their stomachs, and crawl. From about six months to a year, they begin to hold a spoon on their own, throw objects, and start the movements of walking. In addition, there are a variety of social developments the child undergoes throughout their first year of life. Such developments include the establishment of relationships with their parents and others, the ability to express and experience emotions, as well as responding to familiar sounds and voices.

Furthermore, infants develop cognitively by babbling, exploring things with their mouth, and by twelve months speaking their first understandable words. Lastly, their language develops rapidly. At first, they begin to use different notices to signal hunger or pain. Then, by four months, they begin to make vowel sounds which leads to jargon and laughs. When they reach a year, they respond to simple verbal commands such as no (“Ages and Stages” 2018). Sigmund Freud is a renowned neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the conjunction of a system of psychological theories and therapy that work together to treat mental disorders. Freud’s theory encompasses five stages of which include the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage, and the genital stage.  The oral stage is the first stage and it begins from birth to about 18 months and deals with the stimulation of the mouth.  Furthermore, the anal stage begins at 18 months and ends at 4 years of age and includes stimulation of the anus, such as toilet training. Next, is the phallic stage, which starts at age four and lasts until ages 6 to 7, this phase focuses on pleasure received from the genitals.

Moreover, latency begins from the age of seven until twelve years of age and involves the shift from physical activities to intellectual ones. Lastly, is the genital stage that lasts from twelve years of age to adulthood, and includes developing sexual relationships and more stimulation of the genitals. (Mcleod, Saul. “Psychosexual Stages”5 Feb. 2017). However, the stage that we will be discussing is the oral stage. During this stage, the mouth is the part of the body that receives the most stimulation by engaging in the sucking and rooting reflexes. Freud discussed that fixation, becoming stuck on a certain stage, can occur at any stage; however, if a child becomes fixated during the oral stage it can lead to a prolonged period of breastfeeding or nail-biting. Fixation can occur because of a lack of stimulation, overstimulation, or frustration (Mcleod, Saul. “Psychosexual Stages”5 Feb. 2017). Breastfeeding is a topic that has been researched and discussed for an extended period of time. Contrary to popular beliefs, women who breastfeed for a longer period of time exceed their fertility expectations compared to mothers that only breastfeed for about five months.

Moreover, most people believe that women breastfeed for longer periods of time due to their economic status, income, and location; although this is true in some situations, most of the time the extensive breastfeeding period is an effect of how many children the mother has. During earlier decades, the main source of food for infants was their mother’s breast milk; however, since new advancements have been made since the 20th century, a majority of the women in the United States began to feed their newborns formula. Due to the fact that in the late 1900’s there was an extremely low rate of breastfeeding after 6 months, doctors began to emphasize the need for breastfeeding because of the bond it creates between the infant and the mother. As statistics show, women who have one child breastfeed their children for an average duration of six to thirty weeks, but few mothers, about 8% of them, breastfeed for longer than a year (9 September 2018).  Studies by the Minsky Hospital in London have stated that the shorter this oral stimulation stage is the more detrimental it is the infant's development. The duration of breastfeeding is contributed to a variety of factors such as race, age, and level of education. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that breastfeeding rates at six months differ among different races drastically with Asian women having the highest rate at 16.1% and African American women having the lowest rates at 7.9% (Thurlier and Mercer 2009). Also,  researchers Doran and Schellenberg conducted a study in 1998 that determined that older women breastfeed their children for a longer period of time this can be contributed to certain obligations that younger women have such as going back to their strict work schedule. Lastly, women’s education levels play a role in the span of breastfeeding.

For example, educated women usually breastfeed more often and for longer periods of time. However, women that come from a lower socioeconomic status and education lactate to their children for shorter periods of time because they are mostly unmarried and less likely to attend parenting classes (Scott and Binns, 1999). There are a multitude of benefits that an infant obtains from their mother lactating to them. One of the main perks of getting breastfed is that the child receives many nutritional benefits and the breast milk creates antibodies for the infant to fight diseases, viruses and bacteria. For example, breast milk contains various cytokines, useful substances, that are both inflammatory and anti inflammatory, which help regulate and keep homeostasis in the infants immune system. However, some researchers argue that a bottle fed child can be exposed to many different nutritional products and therefore have more diverse bacteria in their intestinal tract which can better stimulate the child’s immune system (World, AE. “Does Breastfeeding affect the infant’s immune responsiveness?” January 1998). Therefore, an infant is a child from birth to one year of age.

These infants are exposed to a series of developments which include physical, social, cognitive, and language developments (“Ages and Stages” 2018). In addition, according to distinguished neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, there are a series of psychosexual stages that a person undergoes from birth until death. From these stages, the oral stage occurs from birth to around six months of age. This stage is encountered when the child has a need for oral stimulation and they receive the satisfaction of this stimulation from sucking on their mother’s breast. As a result, Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development concludes that an infant needs to be breastfed since birth to around eighteen months of age in order to not become orally fixated (Mcleod, Saul. “Psychosexual Stages”5 Feb. 2017). Extensive research has been done in order to show that it is a benefit for the infant if the mother breastfeeds her child. Some benefits include the connection formed by the mother and the child and the ability to receive all the nutrients necessary for healthy development. Furthermore,it is valuable for the infant to develop an immune system that allows them to fight more bacteria, viruses, and diseases. Most importantly, the action performed by the child of sucking on the mother’s nipple is necessary in order for the child to not become fixated, or stuck, in the oral stage. The results of becoming orally fixated include nail-biting, thumb-sucking, smoking and many more. Research has proven that it is beneficial for an infant to be breastfed for nutritional purposes and being breastfed for a certain period of time ( no more than 18 months) can help decrease the likelihood of a child becoming orally fixated.. (World, AE. “Does Breastfeeding affect the infant’s immune responsiveness?” January 1998).

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Sigmund Freud's Oral Stage Length of Breastfeeding in Infants. (2018, Nov 16). Retrieved June 18, 2024 , from

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