Additional Safe Sleep Advice: Breastfeeding & Vaccination
The AAP has also made a couple of other important additions to its safe sleep recommendations. Breastfeeding is now recommended specifically as a method of reducing risk of SIDS. Dr. Moon explains that as of the most recent policy statement in 2005, the AAP didn’t have enough evidence to associate breastfeeding with a reduced risk of SIDS, although the connection had been established between breastfeeding and a lower risk of infant mortality overall, but since then, “there have been several studies that have come out that have demonstrated pretty unequivocally that breastfeeding is protective. So, we wanted SIDS risk reduction to be on the list of the many reasons why we should breastfeed.” As of now, medical professionals still don’t understand exactly how breastfeeding helps to lower risk of SIDS, and Dr. Moon explains that it may have to do with “anti-inflammatory properties of breastfeeding, or it may have to do with the fact that breastfeeding decreases infections in babies, because we know that babies who die of SIDS are more likely to have had a recent infection. It could be a whole host of things, and there are researchers that are looking at that.” While the AAP recommends, when possible, that mothers exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, any breastfeeding has been shown to be more protective against SIDS than no breastfeeding.
And finally, the AAP now recommends infant immunization as a SIDS risk reduction strategy as well, as there is evidence that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent. This recommendation is particularly notable because, Dr. Moon explains, there has been a lot of concern amongst parents that vaccinations may cause SIDS: “I think it’s largely because the high risk period of SIDS is between 2 and 4 months, and that’s when babies start getting a lot of immunizations.” She points out that the rate of SIDS has decreased while the number of immunizations infants receive in that period has gone up in the last 20 years, and that recent studies have shown that there is no cause-and-effect between SIDS and immunizations—and that babies who are fully immunized are at half the risk of dying of SIDS than babies who are not fully immunized, although the why’s behind these relationships are not fully understood as of yet.