Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of SIDS

breastfeedingWomen who breastfeed lower the chances that their baby might die of sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS.

A new study looked at more than 300 infants who died of SIDS and nearly 1,000 age-matched "control" infants. At 2 weeks of age, 83 percent of controls were being breastfed, compared to only 50 percent of SIDS infants.

Exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month cut the risk of SIDS in half. Partial breastfeeding at this point was also tied to a reduced risk.

The researchers recommend that public health messages aimed at SIDS risk-reduction should encourage women to breastfeed their infant through 6 months of age.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Breastfeeding is the least expensive and most effective way to improve and protect your baby’s health. It offers your child lifelong health benefits, not only cutting their risk of SIDS in half, but also providing added protection against:

• Heart disease
• Bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease
• Asthma, allergies, and respiratory infections
• Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
• Eczema

Along with this newest study, several past studies performed in the United States and other industrialized nations reveal increased risks of SIDS among babies who receive formula instead of breast milk. In fact, one U.S. study conducted in 2003 found an infant who is fed formula faces five times the risk of dying from SIDS as an infant who is breastfed.

What is SIDS and Why Might Breastfeeding Help Prevent It?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death for babies up to 1 year old, and is the third leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year, over 2,200 infant deaths are attributed to SIDS.

One theory suggests that babies who die from SIDS may have brain abnormalities that prevent them from waking up when they don’t get enough oxygen during sleep. An "immaturity" of the central nervous system -- both brain and cardiovascular -- is therefore a likely cause of SIDS, and optimized nutrition for the mother during pregnancy and after is an essential element of prevention.

For instance, a study published in Acta neuropathologica back in 2002 found that infants without the full complement of brain neurons due to inadequate nutrition are at risk of SIDS because they are unable to develop appropriate heart and lung control during a crucial developmental period.

This is why breast milk, which is the perfect food for babies, is so important to their health in those first fragile months.

Breast milk boosts your child’s immune system naturally, promoting greater resilience against most common childhood illnesses and diseases. Many mothers who breastfed their babies have reported their children were completely free of illness for the first several years, and have maintained unusually good health even as they’ve grown older.

While breast milk is nearly always the best choice for a baby, the healthier a mother’s lifestyle, the healthier her breast milk will be.

Two Crucial Nutrients for Moms-to-Be for SIDS Prevention and Optimal Health

If you or someone you love is currently breastfeeding, pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, it is a wise and simple step to make sure you’re getting enough:

Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiencies are common in the United States, which is unfortunate because healthy vitamin D levels prevent a host of illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, cancer, asthma and osteoporosis.

A lack of vitamin D may also be one reason why rates of SIDS among African Americans are almost twice those of other ethnicities. It may also explain why SIDS is more common in winter months, when sunlight is scarce.

Vitamin D deficiency in the pregnant mom may be also be one of the major contributing factors for autism, so it is absolutely imperative that all pregnant women have their vitamin D levels tested and make sure their blood levels are between 50 and 65 ng/ml.

Ideally you should get your vitamin D from healthy sun exposure (and healthy sun exposure for your baby after he’s born), but you can supplement with a high-quality, natural vitamin D as long as you have your levels monitored.

Either way it is CRUCIAL that when you are pregnant you monitor your vitamin D levels and make sure they are in therapeutic range. If your baby is born during the winter it will also be important to supplement them with exposure to a safe tanning bed or if that is unavailable then oral vitamin D in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 units a day.

Omega-3 fats: The omega-3 fat DHA is accumulated in fetal tissues, particularly the central nervous system. However, because animal cells cannot form omega-3 fatty acids, a fetus must obtain all of its omega-3 fats from its mother’s diet. A mother’s dietary intake and plasma concentrations of DHA directly influence the DHA status of the developing fetus.

Aside from lowering the risk of SIDS, omega-3 fats also help to prevent premature deliveries and maximize your baby’s intelligence, so be sure to supplement your diet with a high-quality, animal-based source, such as krill oil.

What Else Can You do to Help Prevent SIDS?

Despite getting increasing press in recent years, SIDS remains a tragic and very misunderstood condition. Even the definition of SIDS is completely ambiguous, and is used to describe the sudden death of any infant under 1 year that remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation.

Although the exact causes are still unknown, you can reduce your baby’s risk by following some simple tips. The top steps I suggest all parents follow are:

• Pregnant women should make sure they’re eating very healthy, basing your diet on whole, fresh foods and including plenty of animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, and vitamin D from the sun or a high-quality oral supplement.

• Breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months.

• Put your baby to sleep on their back. Babies who sleep on their tummy or side are more likely to die from SIDS.

• There is compelling evidence that SIDS may also be related to fire retardants in the baby’s mattress. So use a toxin-free mattress, or one covered with an appropriate mattress cover. The mattress itself should be firm, and there should be no covers, pillow, bumper pads, stuffed animals, or toys, as these all increase the risk of SIDS.

• Be careful not to put too many clothes on your baby at bedtime. Use just enough clothing to keep them comfortable, but not so much that they could overheat.

• Keep your baby’s room temperature comfortable (again, you want to avoid overheating your baby), and use a fan to help circulate the air

• Vaccinations have also been linked to an increased risk of SIDS, so learn about the risks of vaccinations, and decide which ones are right, or not right, for your baby.

• Avoid cigarette smoke. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, or raised in an area where they’re exposed to tobacco smoke, are more likely to die from SIDS.

Help for Moms Who Can’t Breastfeed

Ideally, you should strive to breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months, and only then begin to supplement with solid foods (while still continuing to breastfeed as well).

If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, Le Leche League is a terrific resource to contact for help.

However, if you’re unable to breastfeed please steer clear of commercial infant formulas as much as possible and definitely avoid all soy infant formula. The next best alternative to breast milk is to make a healthy homemade infant formula for your child using this recipe.