Babies who are breastfed for at least two months after they’re born reduced their risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by half, according to a new study.
Infants gain the benefits of breastfeeding in only two months, the study found, potentially life-saving news for mothers who either can’t or choose not to breastfeed exclusively or for a longer period of time.
“Breastfeeding for just two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost half, and the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the protection,” UVA School of Medicine researcher Fern Hauck told Science Daily. “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.”
SIDS is the top cause of death in infants aged one month to 1-year-old. The researchers found, after adjusting their results for known variables, that breastfeeding a child for at least two months significantly decreased the risk of sudden death but less than two months did not provide the same benefit.
For the study, the researchers reviewed eight other international papers on SIDS that investigated 2,259 cases of the cause of death and 6,894 control infants who didn’t die and saw that when breastfed, infants’ risk of the syndrome was severely reduced, despite differing cultural behaviors and backgrounds.
The researchers are using their findings to call for “ongoing concerted efforts” to increase the rates of breastfeeding worldwide. In 2007, a quarter of babies in the U.S. were never breastfed, according to the study. The connection between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of SIDS is still unknown but the researchers speculate that immune benefits from breastfeeding may play a role.
“It’s great for mothers to know that breastfeeding for at least two months provides such a strong protective effect against SIDS,” UVA School of Medicine researcher Rachel Moon said. “We strongly support international and national efforts to promote breastfeeding.”