Breast milk gives your baby all the nutrients they need for the first six months of life, and helps protect them from infection. In terms of helping reduce SUDI, breastfeeding is most protective when it is exclusive and no formula feeding takes place.
Research shows that breastfed babies wake more easily than babies who are fed formula milk. The nutritional benefits to breastfeeding also reduce the incidence of other conditions which may make a baby more vulnerable health wise. Breastfed babies are less likely to have infections of the respiratory tract and digestive system. Babies who are exclusively breastfed have certain microbiomes in their digestive system which increase immunity. It is likely that these factors combined help protect babies from SUDI.
Breastfeeding your baby can reduce the risk of a sudden unexpected death. Some research has shown this reduction to be as much as 50%.
One of the key factors is the sleep routine and nighttime care of breastfed infants which differs from formula fed babies. They are likely to be nursed more frequently which means they are checked, repositioned for sleeping and bedding tucked in more often over a period of adult sleep time.
If a breastfeeding mum brings baby into bed to feed during the night, it is safest to place your baby back into their own sleep space (cot, crib or Moses basket) after you have fed them and before falling asleep themselves.
Some studies show an increase in breastfeeding from bed-sharing but it may be the case that breast-feeding mothers are more likely to bed-share so it is difficult to say which practice promotes the other. Bed-sharing is not necessary to successfully breastfeed a baby.
Evidence For Our Breastfeeding Message
Studies show that any breastfeeding of any duration can help protect babies from SUDI by lowering their risk up to six times.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first month of a baby’s life has been shown to reduce the risk of SUDI by almost half. Any exclusive breastfeeding, no matter the duration, has been shown to reduce the risk by 2.7 times.
One study has shown that the risk of SUDI when bed-sharing is the same regardless of whether baby is breastfed or not. Bed-sharing to facilitate breastfeeding for the purposes of reducing the risk of SUDI should not be used as an infant care practice.