Breastfeeding for at least two months may be linked to a lower SIDS risk

New research has revealed that mothers who breastfeed for at least two months can lower their baby’s risk of SIDS [Photo: Getty]
New research has revealed that mothers who breastfeed for at least two months can lower their baby’s risk of SIDS [Photo: Getty]

Breastfeeding has long been hailed as having a whole host of reported benefits for babies, with a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) being just one of them.

Previous studies haven’t offered a clear picture of exactly how long women need to nurse their infants to protect against SIDS. But now new research delving deeper into the link between breastfeeding and SIDS has revealed that a lower SIDS risk may only be realised when mothers breastfeed their babies for at least two months.

The new research, published in the journal of Pediatrics, looked at data from eight studies, encompassing 2,267 infants who died from SIDS as well as 6,837 control infants. The results revealed that breastfeeding duration of at least 2 months was associated with half the risk of SIDS.

The research also revealed that breastfeeding for longer periods of time offered increased protection. Mums who breastfed for four to six months, 60 percent lower risk of SIDS and when mothers breastfed for six months or longer, researchers found a link to a 64 percent decrease. But overall, the two month mark was the most important one to hit.

Researchers uncovered some other interesting information too – that in order to get the same protective benefit, breastfeeding did not need to be exclusive. In other words parents could supplement with bottles and formula feeding.

According to the Lullaby Trust around 232 babies and toddlers still die every year of SIDS in the UK, so it is understandable that parents are keen to do what they can to protect against it.

But mums who aren’t able to make breastfeeding work for them should take heart in the fact that the researchers themselves have pointed out that there are a couple of limitations to the research.

Firstly it wasn’t a controlled experiment, but a review of multiple studies with many different variables. The researchers also pointed out that other factors like economic control and parental involvement could have played a part in the findings. For example Dr Ian Paul told Reuters that it is possible that mums who were breastfeeding their babies for long periods may have been checking on them more frequently in the night, which could have contributed to the decreased risk of SIDS.

Deutschland, NRW, Baby in Mutters Arm, Mutter stillt Baby, stillen, Brust, Portrait
Deutschland, NRW, Baby in Mutters Arm, Mutter stillt Baby, stillen, Brust, Portrait

The survey results come as another breastfeeding study reveals that mothers who breastfed for longer periods could kickstart maternal sensitivity.

A study published in the journal Developmental Psychology found that mums who breastfed for longer periods of time are more responsive to their kids’ needs a full decade into their young lives.

“Breastfeeding may set in motion a cascade of positive consequences for maternal sensitivity beyond the infant/toddler period,” writes a research team led by psychologist Jennifer Weaver of Boise State University.

Again, however, this increase in sensitivity was relatively small and as the researchers themselves note, the mother-child relationship is complex, and can be influenced by many factors, breastfeeding being only one of them.

So if you haven’t been able to make breastfeeding work for you, don’t worry that you’re not giving them enough protection from SIDS or that you won’t be sensitive enough to their needs as they get older. These two new pieces of research are interesting and encouraging for those fortunate enough to be able to breast feed. But there are plenty of other things parents can do to keep their children safe and stay tuned into their needs.

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