Reuters: Breastfeeding at least two months tied to lower SIDS risk
by Lisa Rapaport
Babies who are breastfed for at least two months may have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) during sleep than babies who aren’t nursed as long, a research review suggests.
Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants until they’re at least six months of age because it can reduce babies’ risk of SIDS as well as ear and respiratory infections, allergies, childhood obesity and diabetes. But research to date hasn’t offered a clear picture of exactly how long women need to nurse their infants to protect against SIDS, said John Thompson, lead author of the current study and a pediatrics researcher at the University of Auckland.
“The peak age of SIDS is two to four months, so breastfeeding may need to continue into this apparently more vulnerable period to incur the protective effect,” Thompson said by email.
For the study, researchers examined data from eight previously published studies with a total of 2,267 SIDS cases and 6,837 babies who didn’t die in their sleep.
Compared to babies who were not breastfed at all, SIDS was 40 percent less likely in infants who were breastfed at least some of the time for two to four months, researchers report in Pediatrics.
Any breastfeeding for four to six months was associated with a 60 percent lower risk of SIDS, and nursing babies at least some of the time for six months or longer was linked to 64 percent lower odds of SIDS.
Exclusive breastfeeding for less than two months didn’t appear to protect against SIDS. But exclusive breastfeeding for two to four months was associated with 39 percent lower odds of SIDS, and four to six months was linked to 54 percent lower odds.
It’s not clear why breastfeeding didn’t appear to have a protective effect when the duration was less than two months, said Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, a pediatrics researcher at Children’s Mercy Kansas City who wasn’t involved in the study.
“We knew that breastfeeding was associated with decreased risk of SIDS and that exclusive breast feeding seemed to impart even greater protection,” Colvin said by email. “I now know the absolute minimum duration of breastfeeding I must reach with every newborn.”