Does Formula Feeding Increase The Risk of SIDS?

Does Formula Feeding Increase The Risk of SIDS?

Forward note from BellyBelly: we understand this topic is a very sensitive one, and we want to reiterate that no articles we post are ever a judgement on any parent’s decisions or choices. We simply present evidence-based information so our readers can fully inform themselves before making decisions.

We know that some parents do not have the luxury of choice. Please understand that in order to get better outcomes, we do need to do research like this, which educates and informs not only parents, but care providers too.

Especially when new research has found that 50% of Australian mothers are no longer exclusively breastfeeding at 2 months.

The situation is dire, and we need to take action. Especially when we have statistically significant research available from multiple sources, it would be a crime not to share it.

No matter how you feed your baby, you are a great parent. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but there are many ways you can be a great one.

Does Formula Feeding Increase The Risk of SIDS?

Yes. Venneman et al 2009 were first to find unqualified proof of this long suspected fact having conducted a populations-based study of 333 infants who died of SIDS between 1998 and 2001 matched in age to 998 “control infants” born 4 to 6 weeks after the case infants.

According to their abstract: “The response rate was greater for case families vs control families (82.4% vs 58.7%). Interviews were conducted at the same age for case infants and control infants. Autopsy protocol for case infants was standardized. Most SIDS cases (59%) occurred between ages 2 and 5 months. Interviewers administered questionnaires regarding exclusive breast-feeding, partial breast-feeding, or no breast-feeding at ages 2 weeks, 1 month, and in the month before SIDS in case infants or in the last month before the interview in control infants.

Multivariate analysis controlled for maternal smoking in pregnancy, maternal family status, maternal age at delivery, socioeconomic status, previous live births, infant birth weight, bed sharing in last night, pillow in infant’s bed, additional heating in last sleep, sleep position, and pacifier use.

At age 1 month, 39.0% of case infants vs 71.9% of control infants were exclusively breast-fed. Partial breast-feeding did not significantly reduce the risk for SIDS. In the month before death or in the last month before the interview, 9.3% of case infants vs 33.5% of control infants were exclusively breast-fed. In the month before death or interview, 12.9% of case infants vs 27.9% of control infants were partially breast-fed.

Survival curves showed that partial breast-feeding and exclusive breast-feeding were linked with a decreased risk for SIDS at all ages.

Breast-feeding decreased the risk for SIDS by approximately 50% at all ages.

Limitations of the study included low response rate for control families, higher socioeconomic status in participants vs. nonparticipants, possible residual confounding despite multivariate analysis, and possible recall bias because of retrospective design.

Additional information from BellyBelly:

SIDS and Kids Recommendations

As a result of 15 years of study, SIDS and Kids have now revised their safe sleeping guidelines to include ‘breastfeed if you can’.

Here’s a snippet from their website:

“According to research, breastfeeding babies more than halves the chances of a baby dying suddenly and unexpectedly.”

Author of the review and safe sleeping expert, Adjunct Professor Jeanine Young, says consistent findings of studies conducted over the past 15 years show that along with maternal and infant health benefits, breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of sudden and unexpected infant death, including SIDS.

“We have now reached a point where conclusive evidence from numerous studies demonstrates breast milk can reduce sudden and unexpected death in infancy,” she says.

“An analysis of the results of eighteen studies show that the risk of sudden and unexpected infant death is significantly reduced for mothers who exclusively breastfeed and for a longer duration of breastfeeding,” Professor Young said.”

You can read more information about breastfeeding from SIDS and Kids here.

If you are formula feeding your baby, you may not be aware that relactation is possible, moreso with the great support of an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant).


1. Vennemann M, Bajanowski T, Jorch G, Mitchell E. Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Pediatrics 2009; 123: e406-10.

See Also: Fredrickson DD, Sorenson JF, Biddle AK. Relationship of sudden infant death syndrome to breast-feeding duration and intensity. Am J Dis Child 1993; 147: 460.

Further Resources and Recommended Reading

Last Updated: June 25, 2015


Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Behavioral Studies of Mother-Infant Sleep, Notre Dame University.

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