According to new research, just two months of breastfeeding can halve a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Researchers from the University of Virginia analysed the results from eight international studies on SIDS.
The research study, published in the journal Pediatrics, included over 2,000 cases of SIDS and almost 7,000 control infants.
After adjusting for variables that could otherwise distort the results, the researchers found that babies who were breastfed for at least two months saw a significant decrease in the risk of SIDS.
Breastfeeding for less than two months didn’t offer the same benefit.
The link between breastfeeding and a reduction in the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) isn’t a new discovery. It has long been known that breastfed babies are less likely to fall victim to SIDS.
However, this study is the first to identify a minimum duration of breastfeeding that reduces the risk.
The study also showed that breastfeeding for longer than two months allows for further protection from SIDS. Researchers found that babies didn’t have to be exclusively breastfed to receive the benefit; mix-fed babies also shared the reduced risk.
The number of SIDS deaths has reduced considerably over the past twenty years; it is still, however, the leading cause of death in babies aged between one and 12 months.
Dr Fern Hauck and Dr Rachel Moon, two of the researchers involved in the study, appeared on Facebook Live to discuss their findings.
During the video, Dr Hauck explained: “We don’t know exactly what the cause of SIDS is. We know what factors are related to higher risks of SIDS. We do have some theories about what causes it. It’s believed to be a defect somewhere in the brain that occurs in utero that probably affects the arousal mechanism of the brain. So if a baby is in a non-advantageous situation … the baby does not respond appropriately and therefore doesn’t turn the head or gasp”.
She continued, “(With) the two months period … there was about a 40 percent reduction in risk, almost half, and then with that extra two to four months, and four to six months, it added a little more protection, so it was close to a 60 percent reduction. So, the good news is that you only have to breastfeed for at least two months to get good protection but if you continue breastfeeding you’re going to get even more”.
Dr Moon added, “And we would recommend continuing breastfeeding anyway, because we know that the more you breastfeed and the longer you breastfeed, the more benefits there are for the baby, not just with regard to SIDS but with regard to all of the protection that breastfeeding provides”.
Dr Hauck summarised the results, saying, “I think the news is really great, that moms should be encouraged by this. We want to encourage all mothers to breastfeed their infants for as long as they can. The encouraging piece is even if they breastfeed for two or more months, they will have some benefit. So don’t say, ‘I’m going back to work in two months, so I won’t breastfeed at all’. I think that’s a critical finding from this study”.
See the full Facebook Live video here.