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8/19/21blog post

the connection between breastmilk and SIDS

what is all this buzz about breastfeeding? 

You may have seen in the news that World Breastfeeding Week was August 1-7.  August is National Breastfeeding Month. In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted signed a proclamation, also naming August Ohio's Breastfeeding Awareness Month!

Why are you hearing so much about breastfeeding for babies? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively (meaning no water, solids or other beverages) for about the first 6 months of life, and then continuing to breastfeed with complementary solids until at least 1 year of age.

When we think of the risks of not feeding infants breastmilk, we may think mostly of infections such as:

  • the risk of ear infections requiring antibiotic use
  • the risk of hospitalization for complications of vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. 

But there is also clear data about the lifesaving benefits of breastmilk for infant safe sleep. 

It might sound unusual, but according to research there are connections between infant diet and safety during sleep. 

Infants who breastfed had 35% decreased odds for sudden infant death (SIDS). 

Any breastfeeding offers benefit, feeding only human milk for the first six months provides the best protection.  Breastfeed babies interact with the environment differently:

For best results, feed your baby breastmilk 8-12 times/day.

  • Breastmilk provides a solid dose of maternal antibodies with every feeding.  These chemical packages help baby fight germs that their immune system hasn’t even learned about yet. 
  • Feeding breastmilk provides baby with 2 main antimicrobial proteins that slow or stop bacteria and viruses from causing problems in the GI tract or lungs.  These proteins are called lactoferrin and lysozyme.
  • Waking from sleep more easily may be another way breastfeeding decreases risk of sudden death for sleeping babies.

interventions to decrease risk of SIDS 

When the American Academy of Pediatrics updated safe sleep recommendations in 2016, breastfeeding was #3 on the list of interventions to decrease risk of SIDS.

  1. Back to sleep for every sleep
  2. Use a firm sleep surface for every sleep
  3. Breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk recommended - exclusively or as much as possible

Local feeding experts who can help with any feeding journey:

Premier Health Lactation Services

Kettering Health First Steps Breastfeeding Center of Excellence

Dayton Children’s NICU Lactation Specialists



  2. Patnode CD, Henninger ML, Senger CA, Perdue LA, Whitlock EP. Primary Care Interventions to Support Breastfeeding: Updated Systematic Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Evidence Synthesis No. 143. AHRQ Publication No. 15-05218-EF-1. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2016.
  3. AAP TASK FORCE ON SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME.  SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938





Janet Wasylyshen Velasco, MD, MPH, IBCLC, FAAP

hospital medicine
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