S u m m a r y :
Breastfeeding for a minimum of two months reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by almost 50%, says a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The Miracle of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is unique in terms of its virtues: it provides protection to the baby by strengthening its immune system, all the while promoting bonding between mother and child. It is packed with benefits to such an extent that a mere two months of breastfeeding reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) almost in half, according to the new research, conducted by a team from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Moreover, the findings show that exclusive breastfeeding is not required to secure this advantage.
“These results are very powerful! Our study found that babies who are breastfed for at least two months have a significant reduction in their risk of dying from SIDS,” says study author Kawai Tanabe.
“Breastfeeding is beneficial for so many reasons, and this is really an important one.”
What is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome is also known as crib death and cot death. It is defined as the unexpected and unexplained death of a baby below one year of age. The cause of death is not determined even after an autopsy and thorough investigation. Studies suggest a combination of conditions behind SIDS, from developmental to environmental ones; they also mention the potential of breastfeeding as a preventive measure. Tanabe’s research is the first one to find the minimum duration of breastfeeding required to generate this benefit.
Reviewing Data Involving Over 9,000 Babies
With the aim of testing the effects of breastfeeding on SIDS risk, Tanabe and colleagues have reviewed 8 international studies that entail a total of 2,259 SIDS cases as well as 6,894 control babies who did not succumb to SIDS. The extremely large sample analysed by the team cancels out the differences in cultural behaviours, thus constituting solid evidence to support the findings.
The researchers conclude that breastfeeding for two months lowers SIDS risk by almost half. Also, breastfeeding for longer is associated with a greater protection. On the other hand, breastfeeding for less than two months is not linked with the 50% decreased risk of SIDS.
“Breastfeeding for just two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost half, and the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the protection,” says co-author Fern Hauck. “The other important finding from our study is that any amount of breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS—in other words, both partial and exclusive breastfeeding appear to provide the same benefit.”
How Does Breastfeeding Protect From SIDS?
The mechanism through which breastfeeding protects babies from SIDS remains unknown. The study authors suggest that the immune benefits derived from breastfeeding might be one factor that acts as shield against the syndrome. Also, infant sleeping patterns might also be protecting babies.
A Breastfeeding Campaign
The study authors are, therefore, encouraging people to increase the rates of breastfeeding all around the world, specially that previous research shows that around 25% of babies in the US are never breastfed.
“It’s great for mothers to know that breastfeeding for at least two months provides such a strong protective effect against SIDS,” says researcher Rachel Moon. “We strongly support international and national efforts to promote breastfeeding.”