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Sudden infant death syndrome

How can mothers help prevent SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a devastating occurrence, but now there is new information that may help save babies’ lives.

In a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babies who were breastfed were less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). “We have known for a long time that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby after he or she is born,” says Elizabeth Killebrew, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. “We know babies have less ear infections, sleep better and have fewer problems with gastrointestinal upset when they are breastfed.”

Reduce the risk of SIDS

According to this study, even if babies were breastfed part of the time, they experienced a 53 percent reduction in risk of SIDS. “If mothers breastfed for six months continuously, adding in solid foods as appropriate, there was almost a 75 percent reduction in SIDS, which is remarkable,” says Dr. Killebrew.

How common is SIDS?

Dr. Killebrew says that experts do not know the exact cause of SIDS, but it is seen more in children who have diarrhea or possibly a poor immune system or neurological problem. Some theories suggest that it is neurological, or due to a lack of oxygen, overheating or too much carbon dioxide, she adds.

Still, she says, “The cause of SIDS is not very clear. When children die from SIDS, it is usually in those first two to three months of life. It sounds like more of an immune system issue when you look at studies like this, because breastfeeding helps the immune system of the child.” Her top advice? “If a woman wants to try to prevent SIDS, I recommend that she breastfeed her infant,” says Dr. Killebrew.

Dr. Killebrew has given some great facts about the overall benefits of breastfeeding, especially as it pertains to SIDS. Talk to your doctor about the best course of action for your child.

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