(NaturalNews) Babies who are breastfed for at least six months are significantly less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than those who are formula fed, according to a study conducted by researchers from the German Study of Sudden Infant Death Study Group and the University of Munster, Germany, and published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study adds "to the body of evidence showing that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, and that this protection continues as long as the infant is breastfed," the researchers wrote.
The researchers compared breastfeeding rates among 333 infants who died of SIDS and 998 children of similar age who did not die. They found that while 83 percent of surviving infants were being breastfed at two weeks of age, only 50 percent of those who died of SIDS were. The rate of breastfeeding at one month was 72 percent among surviving children and only 40 percent among those who died of SIDS. This corresponded to a 50 percent lower risk of SIDS among children who were exclusively breastfed at the age of one month.
"In the last 20 years, the prevention campaigns to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome were very successful," the researchers wrote. "In some countries the advice to breastfeed is included in the campaigns' messages, but in other countries it is not."
Women should be encouraged to breastfeed exclusively until their children are at least six months old, the researchers said.
"In our study, 73 percent of the infants died before six months of age," they wrote. "The implication of our findings is that breastfeeding should be continued until the infant is six months of age and the risk of SIDS is low. Because breastfeeding rates are low in the socially deprived sections of our population, there should be special programs to encourage mothers of low socioeconomic status to breastfeed their infants not only for the established benefits of breastfeeding for the mother and infant but also to reduce the risk of SIDS in their infants."