Background: In the last 20 years, the prevention campaigns to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome were very successful. In some countries the advice to breastfeed is included in the campaigns' messages, but in other countries it is not.
Objective: To examine the association between type of infant feeding and sudden infant death syndrome.
Methods: The German Study of Sudden Infant Death is a case-control study of 333 infants who died of sudden infant death syndrome and 998 age-matched controls.
Results: A total of 49.6% of cases and 82.9% of controls were breastfed at 2 weeks of age. Exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month of age halved the risk, partial breastfeeding at the age of 1 month also reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, but after adjustment this risk was not significant. Being exclusively breastfed in the last month of life/before the interview reduced the risk, as did being partially breastfed. Breastfeeding survival curves showed that both partial breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding were associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Conclusions: This study shows that breastfeeding reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by approximately 50% at all ages throughout infancy. We recommend including the advice to breastfeed through 6 months of age in sudden infant death syndrome risk-reduction messages.