Breastfeeding Can Significantly Lower Your Baby's Risk of SIDS, According to This New Study

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Women who breastfeed are usually well aware of the advantages that doing so can provide for their children, from reducing the risk of developing asthma to helping babies maintain healthy weight gain throughout infancy. But according to a new study, breastfeeding may also help lower the risk of many parents' biggest fears: SIDS

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SIDS (or sudden infant death syndrome) is the leading cause of sudden, unexpected infant death. These fatalities occur in infants less than 1 year old and, as of now, have no immediate cause that we know of. For many parents, trying to prevent SIDS means careful monitoring as well as changes to sleeping positions and the environments in which infants sleep. 

More from CafeMomNew Baby Sleep Guidelines Can Drastically Reduce SIDS

Doctors at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom conducted a recent study that could change the way parents think about SIDS prevention. Their findings, which were published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, show the discovery that breastfeeding, even for only two months and/or combined with bottle-feeding, can reduce a child's risk of SIDS by about 40 percent. 

That is a huge number, and past studies surrounding the link between breastfeeding and SIDS have also noticed that the act reduces the risk, but the majority of the studies have attributed the lowering of the risk to six months of exclusive breastfeeding. This new research suggests something different. "This analysis does not reveal any advantage to exclusive breastfeeding over partial breastfeeding," the study states, according to Forbes. "Which may be reassuring to some parents who cannot or do not wish to exclusively breastfeed their infant."

For this case-control study, researchers analyzed details about a group of infants who died from SIDS and compared it to information pertaining to a group of infants who had not. Scientists matched one infant who had died with one or two infants who lived based on their age, sex, and pregnancy week of birth. Using this data, the researchers were able to see which infants in each group had been breastfed, how much, and for how long. They also reviewed other factors that could have impacted infants' risk of SIDS including whether or not they slept on their stomach and their exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy. 

Forbes reported that the researchers did admit in their published paper that because of slight variations in the information they received on their test subjects, they were not able to account for every single factor that could have possibly influenced the infants' SIDS risk. 

Ultimately, their research yielded some very interesting results. In addition to finding that breastfeeding for at least two to four months reduces the risk of SIDS, they also found that breastfeeding for less than two months did nothing to reduce or increase the risk. 

The researchers found that the reduction of risk increased numerically the longer women breastfed their infants, with four to six months of any type of breastfeeding reducing the risk by 60 percent and more than six months of breastfeeding reducing the risk by 74 percent. 

Unfortunately, scientists could not pinpoint a clear "why" as to what specifically causes breastfed babies to have their risk of SIDS lowered, though the authors of the research paper did point out that it could be due to the fact that breastfed infants wake up more easily than formula-fed infants. That, combined with the benefits breastfeeding has on their immune system in helping fight off viral infections and the properties in breast milk that aid in brain development, might apparently have something to with it.  

More from CafeMom

This news is fantastic for every parent because it gives a clearer understanding of a real way you can help reduce the risk of something deadly to your infant. Especially so when that risk is reduced by something as natural as breastfeeding.  

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