A new study from the University of Virginia has found that just two months of breastfeeding can cut a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) almost in half.

While previous studies have highlighted an association between breastfeeding and a decreased risk of SIDS, this is the first to determine the necessary duration. “Breastfeeding for just two months reduces the risk of SIDS by almost half, and the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the protection,” said researcher Fern Hauch.

“The other important finding from our study is that any amount of breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS — in other words, both partial and exclusive breastfeeding appear to provide the same benefit.” Which is potentially good news for new mums who can’t or choose not to rely solely on breastfeeding.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) or Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy (SUDI), is a diagnosis given when an otherwise healthy baby dies without warning for no clear reason.

Thankfully it is rare, but is still the most common cause of death in newborn babies. While the exact reason why some babies die of SIDS is unknown it’s thought to be a combination of factors associated with their vulnerable developmental stage.

Who is most at risk?

Around 90% of SIDS cases happen within the first six months of life, with most being in the first three months. As baby grows older the risk falls with very few cases occurring after one year.

While cause and correlations are still unclear some risk factors include:

  • Mums who are under 20 when they give birth.
  • Baby boys.
  • Premature babies (born before 37 weeks).
  • Low birth weight (less than 2.5kgs).

Reduce the risk

Along with the findings from the current study there are a number of ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.

  1. Place baby on their back to sleep. The safest place to sleep for the first 6 to 12 months is a cot which complies with the Australian and New Zealand mandatory standards in the same room as an adult care giver.
  2. Don’t smoke while pregnant or allow others to smoke in the same room after your baby is born.
  3. Never sleep with your baby on a couch or armchair.
  4. Don’t let baby get too hot.
  5. Keep baby’s head uncovered – their blanked should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders.
  6. Don’t use pillows for baby’s head. Ensure their cot is free from pillows and toys when they are sleeping.

For more information on reducing the risk of SIDS visit Red Nose.