May 22, 2002 -- Breastfeeding your baby may have another, unexpected health benefit. A new study shows that babies who were breastfed by their mothers for more than eight weeks were less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The Scandinavian study appears in the June issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers analyzed feeding information from the parents of 244 babies that had died of SIDS between 1992 and 1995 and compared it with similar information gathered from the parents of 869 healthy babies.
During the study period, the prevalence of breastfeeding in the comparison group had grown from 56% to almost 74%, while breastfeeding rates had dropped among the SIDS groups from nearly 56% to just over 47%.
After eliminating other factors know to affect SIDS risk, such as sleeping position, income, maternal smoking, and the baby's age, researchers found babies who were breastfed for less than eight weeks were between three and five times more likely to die from SIDS than babies who were breastfed for four or more months.
But the study authors point out that the protective effect of breastfeeding is minor in comparison to the well-proven reduction in SIDS risk provided by putting babies to sleep on their backs.
Researchers aren't exactly sure how breastfeeding lowers SIDS risk, but they say the fact that breastfed infants had fewer infections may play a role. Another possibility is that breastfeeding fosters a stronger bond between mother and infant that may also reduce the likelihood of SIDS.-->