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Why Breastfed Babies Have a Lower Risk of SIDS

By Heather Turgeon |

Breast milk and sids

Why does breast milk protect against sids?

An article in Pediatrics tells us that nursing your baby lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. From an analysis of 288 studies (18 of which met scientific criteria to be included), it was found that babies who were breastfed were 60 percent less likely to suffer from SIDS than those who were given no breast milk.

And the longer the baby was nursed, the lower the risk — for moms babies who were exclusively breastfed, the risk with 73 percent lower.

The fact that breastfeeding is linked to SIDS is of interest, but to me the more intriguing part is the researchers explanation for why this might be. Here’s what they say could protect infants from SIDS when they’re on a diet of breast milk:

One possible reason is that the researchers say breastfed infants are more easily aroused from sleep than those who are given formula at 2-3 months of age. Heavy sleep may make a baby less likely to wake up and move if she can’t breath properly.

The other reason they cite is that breastfeeding provides immunoglobulins, which protect babies from infection. I’m not sure in this case if they mean that an infection could directly cause SIDS, or that a sick baby might also be less likely to wake up and move her head for air (or her airways might already be blocked from the infection).

Here’s an earlier feature from my Science of Kids column on the cause of SIDS.

My question to you: does it seem correct that breastfed babies wake up more easily than formula fed ones? I always thought the sleep-inducing capacity of formula was a myth?

Image: flickr

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Why Breastfed Babies Have a Lower Risk of SIDS

  1. Rosana says:

    I don’t know why it lowers the risk but the fact that 100% of the babies that have died from SIDS were formula fed, is another powerful reason why I breastfed my two kids.

  2. Shandra says:

    Rosana, it does not say that 100% of SIDS deaths are formula-fed babies. WHAT???

  3. Rosana says:

    Not on this study. I heard that on NPR news a few months ago. It made me very happy to know I made the right decision for my kids.

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