• Babies 2 to 4 Months are Most at Risk of SIDS—But You Can Do Something About It

    New research sheds light on the protective benefits of breastfeeding against SIDS
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
  • Babies 2 to 4 Months are Most at Risk of SIDS—But You Can Do Something About It
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  • Incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) peak when babies are 2 to 4 months old, according to researchers. Breastfeeding can cut these risks by almost half, a new study has found.

    For moms who struggle to breastfeed, there’s more reassuring news. Even breastfeeding for as little as two months can decrease a baby’s chance of SIDS. The same is true for partial breastfeeding—or even if the baby is not exclusively breastfed. The study also found that the longer a baby is breastfed, the greater the protection against SIDS. 

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    “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,” researcher Kawai Tanabe, MPH, from the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine said in a press release. “Breastfeeding is beneficial for so many reasons, and this is really an important one.”

    Published in the journal Pediatrics, the group of researchers, who are highly regarded as experts on infant safe sleep, analyzed data from eight major international studies which involved 2,267 infants who died from SIDS and 6,837 infants who did not die, which were considered the control group.

    Current recommendations already point out the protective benefits of breastfeeding against SIDS. Results from the study, however, provide more concrete information on just how beneficial breastfeeding is to safe sleep in babies. 

    “Breastfeeding for just two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost half, and the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the protection,” researcher Dr. Fern Hauck 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 appears to provide the same benefit.”

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    Moms are encouraged to breastfeed for as long as they can. Study lead author John Thompson, PhD, from New Zealand's University of Auckland, told HealthDay News, “The peak incidence of SIDS is from two to four months, so this may be the most critical period in terms of the protective effect of breastfeeding.” 

    Doctors are yet to fully understand how breastfeeding provides protective benefits against SIDS. There are suggestions that it could be because breastfed babies wake up more easily than formula-fed babies. Breast milk also provides immune benefits against diseases that can cause SIDS. “Several other properties of breastmilk may also reduce the risk of SIDS through their influence on brain development, the authors suggested,” reported Forbes

    Taking from the study's results, the researchers are calling for a worldwide effort to increase rates of breastfeeding. “We strongly support international and national efforts to promote breastfeeding,” said Dr. Rachel Moon also from the UVA School of Medicine and UVA Children’s Hospital. 

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    Aside from breastfeeding, as per the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), other practices that help prevent SIDS include: 

    • putting a baby to sleep on his back on a firm mattress
    • keeping the sleeping area bare and clear of any accessories (including blankets, pillows, soft toys and crib bumpers)
    • sharing the same bedroom with parents for at least six months
    • avoiding baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol, and drugs

    “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures,” said Dr. Moon in a news release of the guidelines. Aside from being a part of the breastfeeding-SIDS study above, she was also the lead author of the latest AAP SIDS report. Find more details on the recommendations here

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