How does breastfeeding prevent SIDS?


does breastfeeding reduce the risk of sids

Hey sleep-deprived parents, did you know that breastfeeding can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS by up to 50% or more? No joke! Breastfeeding has some pretty amazing benefits.

But there’s more to it than that. Scientists have actually figured out why breast milk helps protect babies from SIDS. And it’s pretty interesting stuff!

It turns out that breastmilk is packed with antibodies against viruses that cause SIDS. And these antibodies are passed from mother to child during breastfeeding. This means that moms who nurse their children will pass along these antibodies to their babies, helping protect them from SIDS.

It may help explain why some mothers who nurse their children through infancy experience fewer cases of SIDS.

And there are tons of other reasons to breastfeed your baby! This is why breastfeeding should always be encouraged!

What is SIDS?

The sudden and unexpected death of an infant less than a year old is called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS for short. It’s also sometimes called “cot death”.

This includes children who are born prematurely or who weigh less than 5 pounds. SIDS is caused by problems with the brainstem, heart, lungs, or neck muscles.

These problems cause the body to stop functioning normally and lead to death. SIDS affects about 2 out of every 1000 babies. Most cases occur while the baby is sleeping.

About half of all SIDS deaths happen when parents put their babies down to sleep. Other risk factors include being male, having siblings who died suddenly, living in certain parts of the United States, and smoking cigarettes during pregnancy.


Does breastfeeding prevent SIDS?

Research shows that breastfeeding for at least four to six months lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by more than half. The duration of breastfeeding is also important, so the longer you do it the more it lowers the SIDS risk.

VIDEO: NIH – Breastfeed Your Baby To Reduce the Risk of SIDS

What the research shows:

  • For less than two months, breastfeeding does not reduce (or raise) the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Breastfeeding for two to four months after birth reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about 40 percent.
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, there is no way to tell whether any particular baby would have died even if they had not been breastfed. Six babies out of ten will still die from SIDS each year.
  • Breastfeeding for four to six months reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about 60 percent.
  • Breastfeeding for longer than six months decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about 64%.
  • Babies who are breastfed and formula-fed still benefit from lower risk of SIDS


Some of this risk reduction also extends to babies who are partially breastfed breastmilk along with formula.

This is because breast milk contains antibodies against viruses such as a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza virus 3, adenovirus 2, rhinovirus, coronavirus 229E, influenza B, and human metapneumovirus.

These antibodies are passed onto babies via colostrum and mature milk. Some studies show that babies who are exclusively breast milk are less likely to die of SIDS compared to formula-fed babies.

It’s thought that exclusively breastfed babies wake up more quickly than exclusively formula-fed infants, which may explain why breastfeeding seems to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Does pumping reduce SIDS?

Mothers supplementing with formula or providing pumped breast milk through a bottle still helped reduce their babies’ risk of SIDS, as long as they were breastfeeding in some capacity for at least two months.

Do pacifiers help prevent SIDS?

Do pacifiers help prevent SIDS

There is growing evidence from studies that pacifiers greatly reduce cases of SIDS in infants.

The exact reasons that a dummy or pacifier helps prevent SIDS are not well understood. Some experts believe that just sucking on a pacifier helps to fix small weaknesses in infant development.

Other people believe that the answer is simple and that the handle of the pacifier stops the baby from burying their head in the bedding, stopping them from suffocating.

Similarly, babies who suck their thumbs still benefit from using a pacifier, because if sucking alone stopped SIDS, the thumb-sucking should have been enough.

It’s important to remember that pacifiers aren’t harmful if used properly, but they shouldn’t replace breastfeeding. Instead, parents should try to avoid giving them to babies after 6 months of age. 

What is the number 1 cause of SIDS?

The sudden unexplained death syndrome (SUDI) affects babies under one year old.

In fact, SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants aged 0-1. Every day, around 3,500 babies are born in the United States. Of those, about 2,700 die within the first year of life.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This is why the CDC recommends that parents put their child down to sleep while lying face up. Experts say that this position helps prevent suffocation.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS affects nearly half a million people every year. However, many cases go unreported because families do not know what causes it.

Some experts believe that there is an underlying medical condition that leads to SIDS. Others think that it is caused by exposure to certain substances such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, drugs, and household chemicals.

However, there is no known cure or effective treatment for SIDS. Parents often feel guilty and blame themselves for the loss of their baby. They might even ask themselves whether they did something wrong during pregnancy. But there is nothing that you could have done differently. You cannot control how your baby reacts to things in his environment.

Lowering the risk of SIDS

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping babies sleeping on their backs in a safe sleep environment.

This includes placing infants on their back in a bed or bassinet, covered with a fitted sheet and nothing else. Babies should never be placed face down in a crib, even if it is a convertible crib.

A study published in Pediatrics found that mothers who had been given advice about how to reduce the risk of SIDS were twice as likely to do it correctly as those who did not receive this information.

VIDEO: Safe sleeping and reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Another study showed that mothers who practiced skin-to-skin contact with their newborns were half as likely to place them in unsafe positions.

Other factors include avoiding smoking during pregnancy and keeping the room temperature cool.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you use a firm mattress, keep the room temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, avoid overheating, and avoid putting your baby down to sleep face up. If you notice that your baby isn’t breathing normally, immediately call 911.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that parents who put their babies to sleep on their sides are twice as likely to experience sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Experts say that putting babies to sleep on their stomachs increases the chances of suffocation. If you’re concerned about how well your child sleeps, talk to your doctor about ways to make sure your little one gets enough rest.

6 Tips to reduce risk of SIDS

1. Put your baby to sleep on their back

The most important thing parents do for their babies’ health is put them down to sleep on their backs. This is because it helps prevent SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome.

Babies are naturally born facing forward, and putting them down on their front or side puts them at risk of suffocation.

On their back (supine position) is the safest way for your baby to sleep. It doesn’t increase their risk of choking or aspiration as much when compared with other positions, like side-sleeping or on a sofa cushioned seat—and it’s especially important that you keep this rule in mind if they have had any digestive problems at all recently!

2. Don’t cover your baby’s head while sleeping

The American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no evidence supporting the practice of covering infants’ heads while sleeping. It could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Keep in mind that a large number of babies who die are found with their head or face covered by the bedding. So it’s recommended not to have any bedding, pillows, blankets or other loose things that could block your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat.

The AAP recommends placing babies on their backs to sleep. This helps keep airways open and reduces the chances of suffocation.

3. Don’t let your baby get too hot or cold

Overheating is one of the leading causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a common cause of SIDS among infants under six months old. This is why it’s important to make sure your baby doesn’t overheat.

How to help regulate your infants temperature while sleeping:

  • Room Temperature: The best room temperature for your baby is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit or 20-22 Celsius.
  • Skin Temperature: Keep your baby’s head cool. If you notice that your baby’s head feels hot to the touch, try putting some ice cubes in a washcloth and placing it near his/her ear.
  • Ventilation: Make sure your baby’s head stays well-ventilated. Keep him/her away from fans, window units, and air conditioning vents.
  • Avoid co-sleeping: Avoid sleeping with your baby. This can make your baby hot and is dangerous because they can get smothered, especially if you fall asleep and shift around at night without realising.
  • Back sleep: Your baby should always sleep on her/his back. Besides helping keep them cooler it’s recommended to help prevent SIDS.
  • Discomfort: If your baby seems uncomfortable while he/she sleeps, take note of what’s causing the discomfort.

4. Don’t co-sleep with your baby in the same bed

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says parents shouldn’t put babies down for naps in the same room where they sleep with adults.

The AAP recommends against co-sleeping altogether. “Cosleeping,” as it’s called, is when infants are allowed to sleep next to their parents in the same bed. Why? Because co-sleeping increases the risk of SIDS and suffocation.

Experts also say there’s no evidence that co-sleeping helps babies grow into healthier children. And there’s plenty of evidence that it could harm kids.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that sharing a bed with your child increased the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers analyzed data from over 3 million children born in Sweden between 1985 and 2010.

They found that infants who shared beds with others had a 50% greater chance of dying from SIDS compared to those who slept alone.

If you really must do co-sleeping, then rather consider one of these bassinets that are better suited for cosleeping.

5. Put your baby in their own crib or bassinet to sleep

Baby Bassinet

In 2022, the AAP updated its guidelines on infant sleep. They recommend putting babies down for naps alone in cribs or bassinets. This way, they’re less likely to roll over and suffocate themselves. But the AAP still discourages sharing a bed with your child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies spend no less than 2 hours per day sleeping alone. This includes naps. Babies under 12 months old should never sleep in the same bed as anyone else. They should always sleep in their own crib or bassinet.

“A baby’s death is tragic, heartbreaking and often preventable. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that simple is best: babies should always sleep in a crib or bassinet, on their back, without soft toys, pillows, blankets or other bedding”

Dr. Moon, professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Infants should not be placed on adult-sized beds or mattresses for sleep because they risk being trapped and suffocated. Portable bed rails are also dangerous for infants, as the child could get tangled up in the rails which can lead to their death!

The area where your baby sleeps should be kept free of dangers to ensure your child’s safety, such as dangling cords and electric wires. These can present a strangulation risk for babies!

6. Don’t smoke near your baby

Smoking during pregnancy puts babies at increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to a study published Monday. Researchers found that infants born to mothers who smoked while pregnant had a 2.7 times greater chance of dying within 28 days of birth compared to those whose mothers did not smoke. In addition, babies exposed to secondhand smoke had a 3.6 times greater chance of dying.

The findings come from a large population-based cohort study conducted in Sweden. More than 500,000 women gave birth over a 10-year period. Researchers looked at data collected on nearly 400,000 births. They found that smoking during pregnancy put babies at increased risk of stillbirth, neonatal mortality, SIDS, and low Apgar scores.

Researchers say there are several reasons why babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are at greater risk of SIDS:

  1. Nicotine causes constriction of blood vessels, reducing oxygen flow to the brain.
  2. It increases levels of carbon monoxide, which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain.
  3. Nicotine affects fetal breathing patterns, making it harder for newborns to breathe properly.
  4. Maternal stress caused by smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery.
  5. Exposure to tobacco smoke makes it harder for newborns’ lungs to mature.

Make sure everyone smokes outside or does not smoke inside the home, says Dr. Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.D., M.Sc., co-author of the study and associate professor of perinatology at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.

“If someone wants to smoke, ask them to go out,” she adds. “You don’t want to expose your child to secondhand smoke.”

Benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby

Breastfeeding offers many benefits to both mothers and infants.

It provides protection against respiratory tract infections, helps prevent some cancers, boosts immunity, improves mental health, and promotes healthy weight gain.

Breastfeeding is recommended for babies under six months of age, and while it’s true that breast milk contains antibodies against certain diseases.

There are other benefits to breastfeeding over bottle-feeding as well. Breastfed infants are less likely to develop ear infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal problems. And since breastmilk provides nutrition for both mother and child, moms who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis later in life.

Mothers who choose to nurse often find it easier to maintain a healthy diet while pregnant and during lactation. And in the longer term breastfeeding also decreases the risk of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease – pretty compelling reasons to breastfeed if you ask me!

Finally, breastfeeding also gives you the opportunity to bond with your child and provide emotional support.

Are there any risks associated with breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is often lauded as the best option for newborns, and for good reason. Breast milk is packed with nutrients and antibodies that help to keep babies healthy, and breastfeeding can also help to bond mother and child.

However, breastfeeding is not without its risks. In some rare cases, mothers can pass harmful bacteria or viruses to their babies through breast milk.

Breastfeeding can also lead to engorgement, which can cause pain and difficulty breastfeeding. Additionally, if you don’t pump or express milk regularly, you may experience clogged ducts or mastitis.

Additionally, breastfeeding can be physically demanding on mothers, particularly if they are not getting enough rest or nutrition while breastfeeding for long periods of time.

For these reasons, it is important for mothers to weigh the risks and benefits of breastfeeding before making a decision. However, the overall health benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any risks.

If breastfeeding is not an option, formula milk can be a nutritious and safe alternative. Pumping breast milk can also be a good option for mothers who want to provide their babies with breast milk but are working, traveling or cannot nurse directly.

Ultimately, the best option for each family will vary depending on their individual circumstances.

Wrapping it up – Does breastfeeding prevent SIDS

The research shows that exclusively breastfeeding can halve the risk from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The longer you breastfeed and give your baby breastmilk, the greater the risk is reduced – even if you are alternating between feeding both breastmilk and formula at different times.

There are many ways that breastfeeding can help to prevent SIDS. For example, breastfed babies are less likely to choke or become ill, since breast milk is naturally protective against infection.

Breastfeeding also helps to create a strong emotional bond between mother and baby, which has been shown to provide a protective effect against SIDS. Additionally, the fatty acids in breast milk help to develop the baby’s brain and nervous system, making them less likely to die of SIDS.

In general, exclusive breastfeeding is one of the best things that you can do for your child’s health and safety.

Although breastfeeding has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of SIDS, it is still important for parents to follow safe sleep practices.

Putting your baby on their back to sleep, using a firm mattress, and keeping soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib are all key ways to reduce the risk factors of SIDS.

If you’re pregnant or have young children, make sure you learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and talk to your doctor about how you can reduce your child’s risk of SIDS.

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