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Breastfeeding may help prevent SIDS

| April 6, 2010 9:00 PM

A study released Monday concludes that simply meeting breastfeeding recommendations saves lives. SIDS - sudden infant death syndrome - is a default determination when another cause of infant death can't be conclusively identified. Prior SIDS suspects include placing babies face-down for sleep and other breathing limitations. Now researchers say that breastfeeding longer could prevent 900 SIDS deaths per year.

The report in the journal Pediatrics by researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance stated that health problems associated with poor breastfeeding compliance cost the country $13 billion a year in direct and indirect costs. Indirect costs include lost time from work to care for sick infants.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, breast milk contains antibodies not present in formula which help prevent respiratory and other infections, viruses, diarrhea, and obesity in infants. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers. Earlier studies linked it with lower risks of diabetes, cancer, and post-partum depression.

Following existing medical recommendations would be sufficient, says study author Dr. Melissa Bartick, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Exclusively breastfeeding until six months of age and some breastfeeding until the child is 12 months are recommended. While 75 percent of mothers start out breastfeeding, fewer than a third breastfeed exclusively by the time the infant has reached three months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hospitals do a poor job of explaining the value of breastfeeding to new mothers. Bartick adds that social support is lacking, such as employer flexibility to support breastfeeding efforts and the aggressive marketing of formula.

Not all mothers should breastfeed. Infants diagnosed with galactosemia cannot digest the milk. Mothers diagnosed with tuberculosis or HIV should not breastfeed, nor those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Alcohol and tobacco are bad for babies, so it's best to avoid both. If an occasional drink is consumed, doctors recommend waiting two hours before breastfeeding. However, common illnesses such as the flu do not pass through breast milk.

For more information on breastfeeding see http://womenshealth.gov.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Sholehjo@hotmail.com

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