Breastfeeding has been a topic of constant debate for years. People question the future benefits or deficits of breastfeeding versus not breastfeeding to the future of a child. Others question the importance of it to the development of a child. Many studies, specifically, show interest pertaining to the topic of cognitive development. Recent studies have begun to explore how different aspects of breastfeeding, such as drinking and smoking while breastfeeding, can negatively affect the future cognitive development of the child. Current popular media articles reflect this surge in interest for this topic.
It is important to study what can and cannot impact a child’s cognitive development. It allows the world to discover how one small change can impact the future of their child. If they discover that drinking alcohol and smoking while breastfeeding can negatively impact their child’s cognitive development, then the mother will avoid doing such actions. It is also important for the mother to know up to what extent an action will impact a child.
For example, a mother should know the effect of excessive alcohol consumption versus low levels of alcohol consumption. Making the world aware of such a thing can ensure the growth of a strong future generation. An informed world is a stronger world. The question raised is: are popular media articles properly informing the world?
Popular media articles, for the most part, pull and use information from empirical articles to support and show what they are claiming. While not empirical in their own nature, they do not make claims without having scientific support to back it up.
One such popular media article “Alcohol in breastmilk could affect cognitive development in kids,” was written by Christen Johnson and published in the Los Angeles Times. It claims that alcohol in breast milk does affect a child’s cognitive development. It looks at how alcohol can get into breast milk if the mother who is breastfeeding consumes it. The mother would be passing this alcohol into the growing and developing child. It believes that a child’s cognitive development can be affected by consuming the alcohol infected breast milk (Johnson, 2018).
This article backs up its claim with scientific and empirical evidence from empirical articles including “Drinking or Smoking While Breastfeeding and Later Cognition in Children,” “Alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers: Frequency, correlates and infant outcomes,” and “Alcohol and Breastfeeding.”
One article was specifically used and referenced throughout the entire LA Times article. The article is titled “Drinking or Smoking While Breastfeeding and Later Cognition in Children” by Louisa Gibson and Melanie Porter. Gibson and Porter wanted to know if a child’s cognition was lower if they were breastfed by a mother who had been drinking or smoking. This group was compared to a group of infant’s that were never breastfed. They wanted to know if a child that was breastfed by a drinking or smoking mother would have “dose-dependent cognitive reductions” (Gibson & Porter, 2018). This study tested one cohort of children every two years. The measures in this study included level of alcohol consumption and child’s cognition throughout a child’s development. Gibson and Porter found that, as predicted, a child who was breastfed milk containing alcohol did result in “dose-dependent reductions.” However, they found this was only true up to a certain age. The child was affected at ages 6 and 7, but not at ages 10 and 11 (Gibson & Porter, 2018).
An article with a similar topic was written by Wilson et al. and is titled “Alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers: Frequency, correlates and infant outcomes”. Wilson et al. wanted to examine a few things throughout the course of their study. They wanted to explore how much a mother consumes alcohol relative to their use of strategies to avoid the effects of the alcohol on their child. The mothers and infants were examined during their pregnancy throughout each trimester and after their child was born at 8 weeks and 12-months old (Wilson et al., 2016). Wilson et al. measured alcohol use, breastfeeding, feeding and sleeping patterns of the infants, and development of the child at 8 weeks and 12-months-old. They found that more than 60%, of women drank alcohol while they were pregnant, but most of them used some type of doctor instructed strategy to keep their child from being affected (Wilson et al., 2016). Based on the infant’s sleeping and feeding habits, they found that small levels of alcohol consumption did not affect the development of the child at either 8 weeks or 12 months old (Wilson et al., 2016).
The article, “Alcohol and Breastfeeding,” by Haastrup et al. also explored this topic. They wanted to examine the amount of alcohol consumption during breastfeeding and how it affects the infant receiving it and the action of breastfeeding itself. Researchers used data that had already been conducted from 1990 up to 2011 (Haastrup et al., 2013). This study discovered that consuming alcohol causes a woman to struggle while breastfeeding because of the effect that alcohol has on oxytocin and prolactin (Haastrup et al., 2013). Women produce less breast milk after they have consumed alcohol and cannot breast feed their child for as long as a women not consuming alcohol. The study found that if a woman waited one and a half hours after consuming alcohol to breastfeed than there was less alcohol in their milk (Haastrup et al., 2013). They then examined the effect on the child if they consumed alcohol infested milk. They discovered that an infant’s sleeping habits were affected causing the child to have less REM sleep. Despite this, there was no long-term effect on the infant’s cognitive development if the level of alcohol consumed was low (Haastrup et al., 2013).
Each empirical article attacks the same topic differently with each one having a different focus, method, and findings. Thus, the way that each article relates to the popular media article differs.
Each empirical article differs in various ways, however, each of them works towards learning more about breastfeeding and its negative and positive effects on an infant’s cognitive development. Some support and some do not support the findings of the popular media article and each comes to their own conclusions using different methods. Despite this, they all provide information about the effects of breastfeeding.
Haastrup et al. (2013) found that there was no effect of alcohol on an infant’s cognitive development. In this study, researchers recycled data from another study that was collected from 1990 to 2011 (Haastrup et al., 2013). They noted in their article that alcohol consumption during breastfeeding increased towards the end of this year range. Considering this change, one can assume that the amount of alcohol consumption continued to change and increase up to the point that this study was conducted. While there may only be a two-year difference, the amount of alcohol consumption could have changed in such a way that would be significant to this study. Wilson et al. should have recollected data to use for their study. Newer data could have resulted in a better and more accurate conclusion. So, while the original findings of this study do not support the findings of the popular media article, one should wonder if this would remain true if it was conducted with correct and up to date data.
Wilson et al. (2016) conducted their study with their focus being on the preventive strategies that mother’s use to keep their baby from ingesting alcohol infested breast milk. Their findings were also focused on the usefulness of these strategies. They found that if a mother consumed low levels of alcohol then her child will not be affected cognitively at 8 weeks and 12 months old (Wilson et al., 2016). However, this was only true if a mother employed a preventive strategy which would limit the amount of alcohol their baby would ingest. Some strategies include waiting a specified amount of time after ingesting alcohol before feeding their baby or feeding their baby before consuming alcohol. At first glance, the findings of this article do not support the findings of the popular media article. Through analysis some flaws in Wilson et al.’s study can be detected and reveal support for the article.
The first flaw was that the same researcher was used to collect data from the mother’s every time they were tested. This could lead to the mother becoming too familiar with the researcher causing her to be less willing to tell the truth about the amount of alcohol she has consumed. If the researchers had varied the researcher who collected the data, then this familiarity would not be a confound in the study. Another flaw is that the findings ended up providing more support for the usefulness of preventative strategies involved with breastfeeding rather than the effect of alcohol in breast milk on an infant. Wilson et al. found that when a mother used preventative strategies their baby was less affected by the alcohol. It remains unclear whether everything else they concluded was a result of these strategies. By looking at these findings and acknowledging the flaws, one could conclude that they support the popular media article. If preventative strategies did help reduce the effect of alcohol in breast milk, then there may be an effect that needs to be reduced.
Gibson and Porter’s (2018) article was the primary source of information used for the Los Angeles Times popular media article. They concluded that a child’s cognitive development is affected by alcohol, but has “dose-dependent reductions” and is only true at 6 and 7 years old. This means that a child loses their cognition relative to the amount of alcohol their mother consumed. When a child was retested at 10 and 11, this affect was no longer detected. This shows that a child can grow out of the effect that alcohol had on them in early development. Given that this article drove the creation of the popular media article, it does support the popular media articles findings, while also providing the article scientific back up. However, The Los Angeles Times article did not just use this article as support, it added further back up to their claim by adding insight from a medical professional.
The article also used scientific information provided by Dr. Daniel Robinson (Johnson, 2018). This information added scientific data that relates their findings to the chronological development of an infant’s brain. Dr. Robinson explains how a child is ingesting the alcohol infested breast milk at a time that is very important for their brain development. It also ties in how having alcohol in the breast milk can affect the child’s eating habits. The child would be able to smell it in the milk and not want to drink it (Johnson, 2018). This would further impact them because they won’t be able to sleep, which in turn affects their cognition. A child not having the right amount of sleep would not be able to work on or develop their cognition. Given the support provided by the empirical articles and outside scientific information, The Los Angeles Times article is accurately backed by scientific evidence.
The popular media article from the Los Angeles Times did a good job at presenting information about cognitive development. It took public knowledge and related it back to scientific knowledge to provide support for what it was claiming. It backed up the findings of its original source by depicting evidence that shows how the findings line up with the child’s brain development at the specific time range being examined in the study. It also took scientific evidence from empirical articles to back up its claims. While each empirical article discovered something unique about the effect of alcohol on breastfeeding, each contributes different support to the article.
While at first glance some did not initially reveal that they did support the article, further analysis revealed that they did support some aspect of Johnson’s article. Haastrup et al. (2013) revealed that this topic is constantly changing and needs to be restudied and reexamined as people and the world change. Wilson et al. (2016) helps provide support that preventative measures can be taken to lessen the effect of alcohol in breast milk on infants. Thus, it revealed that some relationship does exist between alcohol in breast milk and the cognitive development of infants. Gibson and Porter (2018) revealed that children at 6 and 7 years old are affected by alcohol in breast milk, but this affect changes by the time the child is 10 and 11 years old.
Each article backs up the popular media article in a different way, while also giving backing to the topic itself. It shows that this is a topic that needs to be studied more in the future. It also reveals how different methods can come together and provide support for the same thing. While each of these empirical articles went in wanting to explain something different about breastfeeding, they found that alcohol in breast milk can affect a child in the future.
By analyzing how cognitive development is depicted in popular media, one can learn how to decipher what is accurate and what is not. Gaining this tool, allows a person to know what information they can trust and what they can turn around and use in their daily life’s.