Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – also known as cot death – is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently well baby. In the UK, at least 300 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year.
Approximately 2,300 infants die from SIDS in the United States each year. SIDS most commonly affects babies between the ages of 1 and 4 months. In Australia, SIDS causes one death in about 1000 live births, or about 250 babies each year.
Over 90 percent of cases involve infants younger than 6 months. No-one knows exactly what causes SIDS, but it is thought to be the result of a combination of factors.
Experts believe SIDS occurs at a particular stage in a baby’s development, and that it affects babies who are vulnerable to certain environmental stresses.
According to a German study exclusive breastfeeding at one month of age halved the risk, partial breastfeeding at the age of one month also reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, but after adjustment this risk was not significant.
Being exclusively breastfed in the last month of life/before the interview reduced the risk, as did being partially breastfed. Breastfeeding survival curves showed that both partial breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding were associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
This study shows that breastfeeding reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by around 50% at all ages throughout infancy and for as long as the infant is breastfed. They highlight that the implication of their findings is that breastfeeding should be continued until the infant is six months of age as the risks of SIDS are low by that stage.
This study can be accessed here; M M Vennemann, T Bajanowski, B Brinkmann, G Jorch, K Yücesan, C Sauerland, E A Mitchell and the GeSID Study Group (2009) Does Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 3 March 2009, pp. e406-e410
Another study was conducted in New Zealand assessing 1800 infants and it showed once again that breastfeeding for at least six months significantly reduces the risk of dying from “SIDS.”
The study can be found by clicking this link; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8282468