The study determined that mothers do not need to breastfeed exclusively for their baby to get the benefit, potentially good news for moms who can't or choose not to rely solely on breastfeeding.
‘Breastfeeding duration of at least 2 months was associated with half the risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding does not need to be exclusive to confer this protection.’
"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," said researcher Kawai Tanabe, MPH, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "Breastfeeding is beneficial for so many reasons, and this is really an important one."
Longer the Duration of Breastfeeding, Greater the Protection
SIDS is the leading cause of death of babies between 1 month and one year of age.
Evidence suggests that breastfeeding was associated with a decreased risk of SIDS but this study has determined the duration necessary to provide that protection.
The researchers found, after adjusting for variables that could distort their results, that breastfeeding for at least two months was associated with a significant decreased risk. Breastfeeding for less than two months did not offer such a benefit.
"Breastfeeding for just two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost half, and the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the protection," said researcher Fern Hauck, MD, of the UVA School of Medicine and the UVA Children's Hospital.
"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."
Breastfeeding and SIDS
Eight major international studies were analyzed to determine the effects of breastfeeding on SIDS risk. A total of 2,259 cases of SIDS and 6,894 control infants where death did not occur were assessed. The large sample size demonstrated the consistency of findings despite differing cultural behaviors across countries, and it provides convincing evidence of the reliability of the findings.
Based on the results, the research team have called for "ongoing concerted efforts" to increase rates of breastfeeding around the world. Data from 2007 showed that a quarter of U.S. babies had never been breastfed, the researchers report.
The World Health Organization has established a goal of having more than half of infants worldwide being breastfed exclusively for at least six months by 2025.
"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."
It remains unclear why breastfeeding protects against SIDS, though the researchers cite factors such immune benefits and effects on infant sleeping patterns as possible mechanisms.
In Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, no cause of death can be found, nor are any noticeable precursory symptoms evident. The child does not show signs of suffering and almost all cases of sudden infant death syndrome occur during sleep.
Although the specific causes of SIDS remain unknown, several factors have been identified that may put the babies at risk. According to researchers, simple measures can be taken to prevent the child from succumbing to SIDS. The most significant step is to, perhaps, to place the baby on his or her back.
- More than 2,000 babies died of SIDS in 2010.
- Most SIDS deaths occur when in babies between 1 month and 4 months of age, and 90% of SIDS deaths occur before a baby reaches 6 months of age. However SIDS deaths can occur anytime during a baby's first year.
- SIDS is a sudden and silent medical disorder that can happen to an infant who seems healthy.
- SIDS is sometimes called "crib death" or "cot death" because it is associated with the timeframe when the baby is sleeping. Cribs themselves don't cause SIDS, but the baby's sleep environment can influence sleep-related causes of death.
- More boys die of SIDS than girls.
- In the past, the number of SIDS deaths seemed to increase during the colder months of the year. But today, the numbers are more evenly spread throughout the calendar year.
- John M.D. Thompson, Kawai Tanabe, Rachel Y. Moon, Edwin A. Mitchell, Cliona McGarvey, David Tappin, Peter S. Blair, Fern R. Hauc. Duration of Breastfeeding and Risk of SIDS: An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis', Pediatrics(2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-1324.