SIDS and Breastfeeding
It is sometimes said that not breastfeeding means an excess risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said that there is a 56% increased risk of SIDS among children who were not breastfed. However, one should look carefully into how these assessments have been reached. Upon close examination, it becomes clear that there is no valid basis for making such allegations. Historical health data and the Surgeon General's own source document show that there is apparently no such excess risk.
Notice that there was a major upturn and surge in breastfeeding rates in the U.S. that began in the early 1970's. But apparently this major upturn, which should have reduced SIDS rates if the claims about benefits of breastfeeding had been valid, had no such effect. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Although SIDS was defined somewhat loosely until the mid-1980s, there was minimal change in the incidence of SIDS in the United States until the early1990s." (The AAP issued a new recommendation regarding sleeping position, after which there was apparent reduction in SIDS cases).(1)
The allegation of "increased risk" of SIDS associated with not breastfeeding should also be seen in light of information taken directly from the source that the Surgeon General cites for that statement,(2) with the relevant table from that document shown below. The screenshot below, taken from the top of Table 21, shows all three of the studies that received "A" ratings from the reviewers.
As shown, two out of three of these best three studies on the subject showed no benefit of breastfeeding in reducing odds of SIDS, once confounders were adjusted for. (There are many confounders to be adjusted for in the case of SIDS, as explained in Section D of www.breastfeeding-benefits.net. Two of these three studies didn't even adjust for confounding factor of low income, which, if it had been done, would have caused the results to be even less favorable to breastfeeding. The only one of these three studies that found a protective effect of breastfeeding adjusted neither for income nor for household smoking other than that of the mother. In addition, in Table 21 of the same document is information about a separate meta-analysis that included six studies that made some kind of adjustment for potential confounders, and four out of those six studies found no protective effect of breastfeeding.
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Although it may seem surprising, the claim about the favorable effects of breastfeeding on risk of SIDS was the claim that turned out to have been the least false, of the various claims made about benefits of breastfeeding, once those were examined in relation to four decades of historical health data that followed the increases of breastfeeding that began in 1972. All of the rest of the disorders alleged by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to be reduced by breastfeeding actually increased, several of them greatly, in the years following the major increases in breastfeeding. In some cases the data is sufficiently detailed to show precise correlations in specific times and places in which diseases increased especially greatly, moderated, or declined, in close synchronization with times and places in which breastfeeding rates correspondingly increased greatly, moderated, and declined. There is also substantial evidence about biological cause-and-effect relationships between known toxins in breast milk and the various diseases, which is presented at the following site and in linked sites. For a claim-by-claim examination of the relevant historical disease data (mainly provided by the CDC) in relation to breastfeeding rate data, go to www.breastfeedingprosandcons.info.
Our article, "Feeding a Baby for Best Long-Term Health," is a general introduction to a critical examination of the question of breastfeeding, some of its drawbacks as well as the benefits that are presented, and it can be found at http://www.babyfeeding.info .
Our very large research paper, "Breastfeeding in Relation to Autism and Childhood Cancer in Developed Countries," can be reached by clicking here. Although this paper is quite long, it has a good introductory summary, with links to detailed sections on each topic; but the introductory summary, including several pictures, is itself several pages long. To view a briefer abstract of some of the main points of the above paper, click here.
An article just on the subject of breastfeeding and cancer, briefer than the paper mentioned just above, is at www.breastfeeding-and-cancer.info
Another paper focusing on causes of diabetes, with special reference to its causes in relation to breastfeeding, is at www.breastfeeding-and-diabetes.info
For a discussion of breastfeeding with special reference to its relationship to asthma and allergies, go to www.breastfeeding-and-asthma.info .
For information about probable causes of childhood obesity, go to www.breastfeeding-and-obesity.info.
For information about the major increases in child disabilities and health disorders since the 1970's, and what may underlie those increases, go to www.breastfeeding-health-effects.info .
For some considerations that are very relevant to any mother who is attempting to breastfeed but encountering problems or difficulties in breastfeeding, go to www.breastfeedingdifficulties.info .
For a detailed discussion of the large number of different toxins that have been found in human milk, their sources in our environment (before entering the mother's body), and their specific biological effects (mainly as found in tests with animals but also as found in studies of humans), go to www.breastfeeding-toxins.info .
Comments from readers:
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(2) Ip S, et al. "Breastfeeding and maternal and infant health outcomes in developed countries: evidence report/ technology assessment no. 153." Contracted report for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2007. AHRQ Publication No. 07-E007.