Context: Benefits of breastfeeding include lower risk of postneonatal mortality. However, it is unclear whether breastfeeding specifically lowers sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) risk, because study results have been conflicting.
Objective: To perform a meta-analysis to measure the association between breastfeeding and SIDS.
Methods: We identified 288 studies with data on breastfeeding and SIDS through a Medline search (1966-2009), review articles, and meta-analyses. Twenty-four original case-control studies were identified that provided data on the relationship between breastfeeding and SIDS risk. Two teams of 2 reviewers evaluated study quality according to preset criteria; 6 studies were excluded, which resulted in 18 studies for analysis. Univariable and multivariable odds ratios were extracted. A summary odds ratio (SOR) was calculated for the odds ratios by using the fixed-effect and random-effect inverse-variance methods of meta-analysis. The Breslow-Day test for heterogeneity was performed.
Results: For infants who received any amount of breast milk for any duration, the univariable SOR was 0.40 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.35-0.44), and the multivariable SOR was 0.55 (95% CI: 0.44-0.69). For any breastfeeding at 2 months of age or older, the univariable SOR was 0.38 (95% CI: 0.27-0.54). The univariable SOR for exclusive breastfeeding of any duration was 0.27 (95% CI: 0.24-0.31).
Conclusions: Breastfeeding is protective against SIDS, and this effect is stronger when breastfeeding is exclusive. The recommendation to breastfeed infants should be included with other SIDS risk-reduction messages to both reduce the risk of SIDS and promote breastfeeding for its many other infant and maternal health benefits.
Copyright © 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.