by Sheryl Walters, citizen journalist
SIDS is the sudden unexplained death of an infant and is the number one cause of death in U.S babies less than one year old. Fortunately the SIDS rate has dropped over 50% since 1983, but it is still responsible for 2500 deaths each year according to the American SIDS Institute. There are many hypotheses for why SIDS happens but there is no known cause. Factors such as stomach sleeping, a smoker in the house, and blankets in a baby's bed increases the risk. Research has shown that a baby who is breastfed has a much lower risk of dying of SIDS than a formula fed baby.
The benefits of breastfeeding in general are very well known. Breastfed babies are less likely to get infections because of the maternal antibodies in breast milk. Illnesses that they are less likely to get include ear infections, stomach viruses, diarrhea, and respiratory infections. In addition, breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity, asthma, Type I and II diabetes, and childhood leukemia.
In fact, breastfeeding is known to be so beneficial that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has included breastfeeding as part of its Healthy People 2010 Objectives. The goals stated in these objectives are to have the percentage of breastfed newborns at 75%, infants still breastfeeding at 6 months old at 50%, and babies breastfeeding at one year old at 25%. Data collected by the CDC in 2004 reported these figures at about 73%, 42%, and 21%, respectively.
In addition to reducing the risk of disease, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from SIDS. Breastfeeding is beneficial for this for a number of reasons.
*Breathing: Breastmilk is non-irritating to airways like a foreign material such as formula could be. In addition, if aspirated breastmilk is less likely to cause apnea.
*Swallowing: Learning to coordinate swallowing and breathing is important in reducing SIDS risk. Research has shown that breastfed babies learn to coordinate more quickly than bottlefed babies because they are usually fed more often (so they get more practice) and also because breastfed babies tend to have better alignment of the jaw and muscles which helps to keep airways open.
*Reflux: Breastfed babies are less likely to have gastric reflux which can increase risk of SIDS.
*Mother/child connection: Breastfed mothers have hormonal cues that keep them more in tune with their baby during the night. As a result they may be more likely to read changes during their baby's breathing or sleep rhythm.
Breastfeeding is so beneficial to babies in countless ways. Decreasing the risk of SIDS is a huge incentive to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies.
American SIDS Institute, (www.sids.org)
Ask Dr. Sears, (http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T...)
Benefits of Breastfeeding, (http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastf...)
Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 1999-2005, CDC National Immunization Survey, (http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/da...)
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