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Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of SIDS


Breastfeeding not only is an excellent source of nutrition for babies, it also significantly reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Results of a new study published in Pediatrics reports that breastfeeding as the only nutritional source for infants is associated with a 73 percent reduction in SIDS.

One more reason moms should breastfeed

Most new moms—about 75 percent—begin breastfeeding, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but thereafter rates drop off dramatically. The Breastfeeding Report Card—United States, 2010, notes that breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months is an average of 43 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively, while moms who exclusively breastfeed at 3 and 6 months is only 33 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively.

The new meta-analysis, conducted by Fern R. Hauck, MD, MS, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, and colleagues, scoured 288 studies on breastfeeding and SIDS from 1966 through 2009 and selected 18 for final evaluation.

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Overall, they found that infants who were breastfed for any duration of time or level of exclusivity (e.g., they also may have received formula) had a 60 percent reduced risk of SIDS, while babies who were exclusively breastfed for any duration had a 73 percent reduced chance of SIDS.

These findings led the study’s authors to note that “Ideally, breastfeeding should be exclusive…for at least four to six months and should be continued until the infant is at least 1 year of age.” This recommendation is in line with guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Approximately 2,500 infants die of SIDS each year in the United States. Tips to help prevent SIDS include placing infants on their back to sleep, never overheating infants with clothing and bedding, choosing safe bedding (e.g., firm mattress, no pillows or stuffed animals in the crib), providing a pacifier, and letting infants sleep alone (i.e., not in bed with parents).

This study shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, and that infants who are breastfed exclusively enjoy the most protection. The study’s authors suggest the recommendation for mothers to breastfeed their infants should be part of the information parents receive on how to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Hauck FR et al. Pediatrics 2011; 128