In the last 20 years, the prevention campaigns to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome were very successful. In some countries the advice to breastfeed is included in the campaigns' messages, but in other countries it is not.
The German Study of Sudden Infant Death is a case-control study of 333 infants who died of sudden infant death syndrome. The study looked to examine the association between type of infant feeding and sudden infant death syndrome of these 333 infants with 998 age-matched controls.
A total of 49.6% of cases and 82.9% of controls were breastfed at two weeks of age. Exclusive breastfeeding at one month of age halved the risk, partial breastfeeding at the age of one month also reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, but after adjustment this risk was not significant. Being exclusively breastfed in the last month of life/before the interview reduced the risk, as did being partially breastfed. Breastfeeding survival curves showed that both partial breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding were associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
The authors say this study shows that breastfeeding reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by around 50% at all ages throughout infancy and for as long as the infant is breastfed. They highlight that the implication of their findings is that breastfeeding should be continued until the infant is six months of age as the risks of SIDS are low by that stage. They therefore recommend including the advice to breastfeed through six months of age in sudden infant death syndrome risk-reduction messages.
M M Vennemann, T Bajanowski, B Brinkmann, G Jorch, K Yücesan, C Sauerland, E A Mitchell and the GeSID Study Group (2009) Does Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 3 March 2009, pp. e406-e410