Breastfeeding can reduce SIDS risk nearly as much as pacifier use can

Baby Pacifier

Considering the breathlessness of the news reports, you might imagine that the results of a new study tell us the best way to reduce SIDS.

According to the Daily News:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If we want to reduce SIDS, our efforts should be applied to promoting pacifier use and discouraging co-sleeping.[/pullquote]

Babies who are breastfed for at least two months after they’re born reduced their risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by half, according to a new study…

The researchers are using their findings to call for “ongoing concerted efforts” to increase the rates of breastfeeding worldwide …

According to WebMD:

But the study also found moms don’t need to breast-feed exclusively to reap that benefit. Even partial breast-feeding will do, the 20-region study found.

“What is, perhaps, surprising is that there does not appear to be any benefit of exclusive breast-feeding over partial breast-feeding in relation to SIDS, though there are many other benefits associated with exclusive breast-feeding,” explained study author John Thompson, from New Zealand’s University of Auckland.

Tara Haelle, writing for Forbes, notes:

Any breastfeeding for 2-4 months reduces the risk of SIDS by about 40%. That means for every 10 non-breastfed babies who were going to die of SIDS, four of them would survive if all of them were breastfed instead.

That’s almost as much as the reduction in SIDS provided by pacifiers!

Breastfeeding and dummy use have a protective effect on sudden infant death syndrome by Alm et al. is a literature review on the protective effect against SIDS of both breastfeeding and pacifier use.

We found 11 observational studies that consistently showed a risk reduction of about 50% if the infant used a dummy.

There were also two meta-analyses that gave approximately the same odds ratio of about 0.5.

In other words, for every 10 non-breastfed babies who were going to die of SIDS, five of them would survive if all of them used pacifiers.

Breastfeeding your baby is nearly as good as a pacifier!

Of course, the protective effect of pacifiers or breastfeeding is dwarfed by the harmful effect of bed sharing. While pacifier use and breastfeeding appear to decrease the risk of SIDS by 50% and 40% respectively, bedsharing increases the risk of SIDS by 400% or more.

[I]n all 11 case-control studies reporting an association between bed sharing and SIDS, the risk of SIDS was increased in infants who bed shared; no study found a protective efect. The largest analysis to date was pub-lished in May 2013,91 with 19 studies from nine datasets across the UK, Europe, and Australasia and totalling 1472 cases of SIDS and 4679 controls. The individual level analysis showed that even for infants at low risk (that is, breast fed and with parents who neither smoked nor used illicit drugs or alcohol), bed sharing was associated with a fvefold increased risk of SIDS in the frst three months of life (adjusted odds ratio 5.1, 95% confdence interval 2.3 to 11.4), compared with infants placed for sleep in a supine position in a cot in the parents’ bedroom…

In other words, for every 10 babies who were co-sleeping when they died of SIDS, nearly nine of them would have survived had they been in their own beds.

Here’s a graphical representation of the relative benefits of breastfeeding, pacifiers, and putting the baby to sleep in his own bed:


It seems to me that if we really want to reduce SIDS, our “ongoing concerted efforts” should be applied to promoting pacifier use and discouraging co-sleeping.

Women who nurse their infants can be assured that breastfeeding helps a little bit, too.