Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) isn’t a topic any new parent wants to think about. If you are breastfeeding you are taking a positive step to reduce the risk of SIDs for your baby. Studies show breastfeeding reduces risk by about 50% at all ages throughout infancy.
There are a number of reasons why we think breastfeeding helps and the answer is probably a combination of all of them.
1) Breastmilk fights infection: Between the age of two and six months (which is the peak period for SIDS) the baby’s immune system is at its lowest. The immunities received through the placenta have disappeared and the baby doesn’t yet have a fully functioning immune system. Breastmilk provides antibody protection.
2) Human milk contains substances that enhance the development of the central nervous system and brain. Some research into SIDS found that in some babies who died of SIDS the nerves in the area of the brain that controls respiration were not fully covered by myelin. This creates a situation in which the nerve signals are traveling faster than they should be.
3) Breastfeeding mothers who co-sleep with their babies are likely to lay baby on his back when not at the breast. Back lying is considered the safest sleep position for SIDs prevention.
4) Breastfeeding mothers who co-sleep with their babies are deeply in tune with their babies even when both are asleep. The movements of mother adjusting her position keep baby from falling into a deep sleep state from which she may not awake.
In addition, recent research has shown that babies who are swaddled and put to sleep on their tummies (prone) or on their sides and they slip into a prone position are at the greatest risk for SIDS. Regardless of how you feed your baby or where you and baby sleep, putting baby to sleep un-swaddled on his back is the safest option.
For more information on the “Safe Sleep Seven” check out the article in Breastfeeding Today.
If you have questions about breastfeeding or want to talk to someone who has “been there and done that” you find the Leader or LLLC Group nearest to you on our website.