Previous studies have shown that exclusive breastfeeding helps to drastically reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but a new, comprehensive review of eight combined studies reveals that any breastfeeding, no matter how much or how long, has the same effect, Forbes reports.
This is good news for the many moms, and especially working moms, who have trouble feeding their newborns breastmilk only. Researchers analyzed the data from eight case-control studies involving 2,267 infants who died from SIDS and 6,837 infants who did not die, and published the results in the November issue of Pediatrics.
The verdict? There was very little difference between babies who were exclusively breastfed, and those who received a combination of formula and breastmilk, at least when it comes to reducing SIDS.
“This analysis does not reveal any advantage to exclusive breastfeeding over partial breastfeeding, which may be reassuring to some parents who cannot or do not wish to exclusively breastfeed their infant,” say the authors of the study, which was led by John M.D. Thompson, Ph.D., from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
Researchers found that any breastfeeding for the first 2-4 months reduces the risk of SIDS by about 40 percent. Any breastfeeding for 4-6 months reduces the risk of SIDS by about 60 percent. And any breastfeeding for longer than 6 months reduces the risk of SIDS by about 74 percent.
Interestingly enough, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 4-6 months reduced the risk of SIDS by 41 percent—virtually the same risk reduction as for babies who were both breastfed and formula-fed.
If anything, studies like these prove that policymakers need to focus on providing new moms with access to paid family leave and ensuring that workplaces are breast-pumping-friendly. Not all moms are able to establish a steady supply of breastmilk because they have to head back to work a few days after giving birth. And many work environments don’t enable them to breast-pump successfully once they return to their job. Fixing those problems would enable many more moms to breastfeed their babies. We already know that the first few months are crucial for helping moms and babies get into the swing of breastfeeding—and as this research reveals, every little bit of breastmilk helps.