Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS

Breastfeeding at least two months can cut the risk of SIDS in half.

Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is one of the many benefits of breastfeeding.

SIDS is the most common sudden unexplained infant death — the death of a child younger than 1 year with no obvious cause. In 2017, SIDS accounted for approximately 1,400 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Nationally, deaths from SIDS have continued to decrease since 1990, we think due to improvement in safe sleep practices,” said Elizabeth M. Doyle, M.D., pediatrician at Norton Community Medical Associates – Shepherdsville and system medical director for lactation services at Norton Healthcare. “Though some additional practices can further decrease the risk.”

Beyond safe sleep practices, breastfeeding at least two months can cut the risk of SIDS in half. In fact, the longer a mother breastfeeds, the more a baby is protected against SIDS.

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“Even small amounts of breastfeeding are beneficial, but exclusive breastfeeding can have even greater benefits,” Dr. Doyle said.

Clues as to How Breastfeeding Reduces SIDS Risk

The reason breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of SIDS is unclear. Suspected links include data showing that breastfed babies wake up more easily and that breastfeeding provides immunity against viruses.

For the breastfeeding mother, it lowers the risk of breast cancer, helps her return to pre-pregnancy weight and also recover from childbirth more quickly.

Breastfed children have a reduced incidence of ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea/vomiting, leukemia and diabetes.

“Human milk is species-specific and changes to meet an infant’s needs at every stage,” Dr. Doyle said. “Formula is made from cow’s milk, and it doesn’t contain the same benefits. Breastfeeding is truly an investment worth making.”

Need Help with Breastfeeding?

While not all mothers take to breastfeeding as easily as others, help is available. Norton Healthcare lactation services, a part of Norton Women’s Care, offers one-on-one assistance with breastfeeding issues. Help includes pumping and back-to-work consultations, individual prenatal consultations and assistance with special needs infants. The specialists also can offer advice on feeding multiples and dealing with babies having difficulty gaining weight. In addition, specialists can analyze breast milk for fat and caloric content.

Norton eCare also provides online video visits for breastfeeding support.

The Baby Bistro & Boutique sells and rents breastfeeding supplies and equipment. That includes breast pumps and parts, breastfeeding bras and breastfeeding pillows. It is located in Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital and was established with support from the Norton Healthcare Foundation.

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