Even Partial Breast-Feeding for First Few Months Lowers SIDS Risk

From Drugs.com - October 31, 2017

Even Partial Breast-Feeding for First Few Months Lowers SIDS Risk

TUESDAY, Oct. 31, 2017 -- New research confirms that breast-feeding for two to four months of a newborn's life can significantly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

But the study also found moms do not need to breast-feed exclusively to reap that benefit. Even partial breast-feeding will do, the 20-region study found.

"What is, perhaps, surprising is that there does not appear to be any benefit of exclusive breast-feeding over partial breast-feeding in relation to SIDS, though there are many other benefits associated with exclusive breast-feeding," explained study author John Thompson, from New Zealand's University of Auckland.

The analysis included research from eight major international studies. The researchers reviewed over 2,200 SIDS case patients and over 6,800 "control" infants. There was great variability in the rates of any breast-feeding and exclusive breast-feeding, the findings showed.

While the research concluded that breast-feeding for at least two months was associated with half the risk of SIDS, breast-feeding for four months provided even greater protection, and continuing after that time provided further small increases.

"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 breast-feeding," Thompson said.

For moms who struggle with breast-feeding, this research may provide a great comfort, knowing that some breast milk is better than none, said Dr. Jennifer Kurtz. She is chief of neonatology at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York City.

"A lot of moms really struggle with breast-feeding, and after those first two months they may not be able to exclusively breast-feed," Kurtz explained.

"Many do not have great milk supplies to begin with, and as the baby grows they need more milk and the moms are not able to keep up with the demand," she said.

"Or, moms may also struggle if they need to go back to work. For a lot of working women it's stressful to carry a pump and create a schedule. With some jobs it's not easy to set aside time to pump, and it really becomes a challenge," Kurtz added.

It's still unclear how breast-feeding might offer protective effects against SIDS, but there are several theories, the study authors said.

Some research has indicated that breast-fed infants are more easily aroused from sleep than formula-fed infants, which might help them to wake if they are having trouble breathing.


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