Here's how long to breastfeed to cut your baby's SIDS risk by half

A study found that breastfeeding for two months—even if you supplement with formula—can reduce your baby's risk of SIDS by half.

Here's how long to breastfeed to cut your baby's SIDS risk by half

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Imagine being able to cut your baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in half. According to a new study, if you are able to breastfeed, you can.

SIDS experts have long recommended that babies be breastfed, but now, with the results of an international study published today, there's evidence that breastfeeding for at least two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost 50 percent. The extra-good news for mothers who struggle with breastfeeding? Your baby will get the benefits even if you are supplementing with formula.

You've no doubt heard the other benefits to breastfeeding (like a stronger immune system and healthier weight for baby, and better bonding between mom and baby), but this is a big one to add to the list. SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies from a month to a year old in Canada.

This is also the first time researchers have been able to quantify how long you need to breastfeed to see the benefits. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia, looked at 2,259 cases of SIDS and compared them with 6,894 infants in the control group. The researchers found that breastfeeding for less than two months didn't have the same benefit, but breastfeeding at least part-time was just as effective.

"Any amount of breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS. In other words, both partial and exclusive breastfeeding appear to provide the same benefit," says Fern Hauck, a researcher from the UVA School of Medicine and the UVA Children's Hospital.

Though researchers couldn't prove why breastfeeding has a protective effect, they suggest that breastfeeding's positive impacts on babies' immune systems or its effects on their sleeping patterns could be factors.

Of course, to keep your baby safe from SIDS, don't forget to follow experts' other recommendations, like putting your baby to sleep on their back, keeping the crib free of bumpers and soft bedding, and avoiding co-sleeping.


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