What’s the answer? Breastfeed for at least two months. That’s according to an important new international study from our Dr. Fern Hauck, Dr. Rachel Moon and Kawai Tanabe, MPH (and their colleagues).
Prior studies suggested that breastfeeding was associated with a decreased risk of SIDS, but this is the first to pinpoint how much is necessary to provide protection for baby. To make that determination, the researchers reviewed eight major international studies that looked at more than 9,000 infants, including 2,259 that died from SIDS. The researchers found that breastfeeding for at least two months was associated with a significantly decreased risk, while breastfeeding for less than two months did not offer such a benefit.
SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies between 1 month and a year of age, but the cause is still unclear. And it’s unclear how breastfeeding reduces it. The researchers speculate that breastfeeding may offer immune benefits and may have beneficial effects on infant sleeping patterns.
Interestingly, babies didn’t need to be breastfed exclusively to get the protection, the researchers found. That’s good news for mothers who can’t or prefer not to rely solely on breastfeeding.