Some evidence that breast feeding protects against cot death (SIDS)

Breastfeeding might protect against cot death, suggests research in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The researchers surveyed the parents of 244 babies who had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and 869 babies still alive and well to find out how they had been fed. The study was conducted between 1992 and 1995. Over 80 per cent of the SIDS baby parents and almost three quarters of the comparison group responded.

During the study period breast feeding among the comparison group increased from around 56 per cent to almost 74 per cent. But it decreased among the SIDS babies, from just under 56 per cent to just over 47 per cent.

After taking into consideration factors likely to skew the results, such as maternal smoking, income, sleeping position and the baby’s age, the authors calculated that babies fed for less than eight weeks had between three and five times the risk of dying from cot death of babies breastfed for four months or more.

The authors point out that the effect of breastfeeding alone is not as great as sleeping position, which had a dramatic effect on the rates of cot death after parents were advised to let their babies sleep prone. But they say that the risk of cot death increases the shorter a baby is breastfed.

Why this should be is not clear, but the authors suggest that breastfed infants may have a lower rate of infections or that the closer contact between mother and child might be more beneficial.

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