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Breast-feeding May Shield Against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Date:6/13/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding appears to reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 73 percent, especially when babies are exclusively breast-fed, a new study suggests.

Breast milk is widely considered the best food for infants, and studies have shown breast-feeding aids babies' development and reduces the risk of disease for both infants and their mothers. Now, there is more evidence that breast-feeding may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which claims the lives of about 2,300 infants a year in the United States, according to federal statistics.

"Breast-feeding has many benefits for mothers' and infants' health," said lead researcher Dr. Fern R. Hauck, an associate professor of family medicine and public health at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "This study shows another important reason that mothers should breast-feed their infants, and ideally, this should be exclusive."

Previous research of this issue has been inconclusive, but these findings provide strong evidence of the protective association, Hauck said.

The report was published in the June 13 online edition of Pediatrics.

For the study, Hauck and colleagues looked at the connection between breast-feeding and SIDS by doing a meta-analysis of 18 studies. In this process, researchers look for common threads by combining the results of individual studies.

Their analysis showed that for infants who received any amount of breast milk for any time period, there was a 60 percent reduction in the risk of SIDS. When the researchers took into account other factors such as socioeconomic status, smoking and infant sleep position, the reduction in the risk of SIDS dropped to 45 percent, Hauck said.

However, when the researchers looked at the reduced risk of SIDS among infants who were exclusively breast-fed, the risk was reduced by 73 percent.

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