By Hannah Schenker
New parents live in fear: fear that their babies will die in their sleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is possibly the most terrifying thing about parenting. But a new international study published in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that breastfeeding for at least 2 months actually cuts the risk of a baby dying of SIDS by half. Now that’s something to shout about.
The researchers analyzed eight major international studies, studying data from 2,259 cases of SIDS and 6,894 infants in a control group where death did not occur. Despite differing cultural behaviours across different countries, their findings were consistent and reliable – breastfeeding is protective against SIDS – as long as it continues for at least 2 months.
They also found that exclusive breastfeeding is not required – that those mothers breastfeeding and supplementing also saw the risk reduction. However, mothers who breastfeed for less than 2 months did not see any reduced risk of SIDS.
Previous studies had suggested a link between breastfeeding and reduced risk of SIDS, and this just confirms it further. Breastfeeding is still one of the best things you can do for your child when it comes to SIDS, and for their health. The longer you breastfeed, the better the protection – in line with the AAP’s guidelines around breastfeeding which recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months, and continuing until the child is at least one year. But hey – you can go on for longer too.
“It’s great for mothers to know that breastfeeding for at least two months provides such a strong protective effect against SIDS,” said researcher Rachel Moon, MD, of the UVA School of Medicine and the UVA Children’s Hospital. “We strongly support international and national efforts to promote breastfeeding.”
Any public health messages around reducing the risk of SIDS should emphasize that if breastfeeding is to have these protective effects, it must continue for at least 2 months and preferably longer.
Just why breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS is still not clear, though researchers discussed several possibilities – such as the immune-boosting benefits of breastfeeding and even better waking from sleep. Whatever the reason – you now know just how important breastfeeding is for the health of your child.
Please share with any family and friends who you think would benefit from this information.