Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to The Safe to Sleep campaign.

In addition to offering many health benefits for mother and baby, breastfeeding or feeding expressed milk to babies reduces their risk of SIDS. The protective effect increases as duration and amount of breastfeeding increases, with the greatest protection from breastfeeding being at least six months. Six months of breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by more than 70%.

Evidence shows that breastfeeding helps babies develop the best immune protection, including gut microbes that offer protection against diarrhea, upper and lower respiratory infections, and other infectious diseases associated with an increased susceptibility to SIDS.

The longer babies are exclusively breastfed or fed breast milk, the lower their risk for SIDS. The Safe to Sleep Campaign emphasizes that any breastfeeding is better than none at all, but at least two months of breastfeeding is needed for protection against SIDS. Parents should discuss with their provider the health benefits that breastfeeding provides for both baby and mom. There are also support services that can help parents achieve breastfeeding and nutrition goals for their baby.

Here are some tips to help parents address safe infant sleep and breastfeeding:

  • Keep baby in your room, close to your bed but on a separate surface designed for infants. This keeps baby close for feeding and bonding.
  • Before bringing baby into your bed to breastfeed, clear the bed of any soft items and bedding, such as pillows and comforters.
  • Place the baby in a safe, separate sleep environment, such as a crib, as soon as feeding is completed and before you fall asleep.
  • If you want to breastfeed on a couch or in an armchair, think about how tired you are before you start feeding. If there’s any chance you might fall asleep, do not breastfeed on a couch or in an armchair.

For more information, visit safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov or call Horizon Public Health at 320-208-6672.

Marcia Schroeder is a registered nurse with Horizon Public Health, which serves five counties, including Douglas County. Contact her at marcias@horizonph.org.

The information in this column was provided by the Minnesota Department of Health and Brandon Klein, Horizon Public Health’s environmental health specialist.