Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is defined as the sudden death of an infant that is under one year of age and where the cause of death cannot be determined. SIDS deaths are most common between the ages of two and four months. SIDS is responsible for more than 2,500 infant deaths in the United States each year.
Hauck and her team began by looking at over 288 studies on breastfeeding and SIDS that had been conducted between 1966 and 2009. They narrowed their results down to 18 studies that fit within their research quality criteria.
What they discovered was that infants who had received any breast milk for any amount of time had their risk factor reduced by 60 percent. If the infants had been feed up until age two months or older, their risk was 62% lower. In infants who had been exclusively feed breast milk, the researchers saw the greatest risk reduction. The occurrence of SIDS in infants that were exclusively breastfed showed 73 percent lower.
Researchers believe a possible connection could be that breastfed infants are more easily aroused from sleep as opposed to infants who are bottle fed. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help an infant’s immune system and reduce the risk of infections during the time frame when infants are most at risk of SIDS.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months and through the first year if possible. Hauck and her team believe that this is the best recommendation and that breastfeeding be included in SIDS prevention pamphlets that are given to pregnant women and new mothers.