Many parents are surprised to learn that not breastfeeding has been
linked with increased rates of SIDS. Despite it's importance, it is
often never mentioned at antenatal classes or by Health Professionals;
so one day I decided to ask one why.
mothers not breastfeeding makes their baby more likely to die?" she
stuttered red faced, although I had suggested something earth
shattering. Heavens no we couldn't tell them that! Imagine how guilty
they would feel if they decided not to breastfeed! And me? I was
firmly moved mentally into the "breastfeeding loony" camp.
And there it is again, guilt - the new black. The guilt culture extends to more areas of parenting than any poor unsuspecting new parent could begin to imagine, but at what cost?
A meta analysis of 23 SIDS studies revealed 19 studies found not breastfeeding increased the risk of SIDS. The combined analysis indicated that artificially-fed infants were twice as likely to die than their breastfed peers.
A recent German study found that artificial feeding at one month, was associated with double the risk of SIDS. Artificial feeding and only partial breastfeeding in the month prior to death were also linked with increased incidence. In this study 73% of SIDS deaths were before 6 months and being artificially fed doubled the incidence at all ages throughout infancy.
The link between feeding method and SIDS is no secret - in fact it's recognised by FSID.
How breastfeeding is protective is still topic of hot debate, as the cause of SIDS is multifactorial; studies have been adjusted to rule out social, economic and cultural differences, yet the link is clear. Research suggests that infection, combined with immature brain stem (in the form of periodic breathing) at a critical time of development, may cause the major proportion of SIDS cases.
artificially fed infants have no passive immunity from their mother,
they are far more likely to suffer infection and experience slower
maturity of the central nervous system. They also sleep more deeply,
with a study finding that during the active sleep phase, breastfed
infants are significantly more rousable than formula-fed infants at two
to three months of age. Dr Brian Palmer D.D.S has found a link
between SIDS and suboptimal development of the facial muscles and jaw,
caused by the unnatural sucking action from a bottle. Breastfeeding
encourages a wide palate and so an unobstructed airway, which means
protection may be as much down to the act of breastfeeding as
It could even be down to a totally different mechanism altogether! Evidence has shown that when breastfeeding mothers safely share their sleeping space with their infant (without a barrier) the mum displays protective behaviours But because co-sleeping guidelines would get far too tricky if they had to explain "safe co-sleeping" and "only for breastfeeding mother"s and so on. They fail to explain all this to mum in the "don't cosleep" schpiel. Which given co-sleeping is closely linked to improved breastfeeding rates, which in turn lowers risk of SIDS - is really rather ironic.
But whilst everyone was told "place baby on backs at the foot of the crib, use appropriate bedding and ensure the room temperature remains at 18 degrees", how many got the lowdown on the links with infant feeding?
When there is evidence suggesting more than a casual link, and no unbiased evidence suggesting otherwise - why is this?
the years I've started wondering about guilt, and I think for the most
part our emotions are our own, there are few occasions when someone can
make you feel something. What I mean is, take this article
- a first time pregnant mum might think wow, didn't know that. A
breastfeeding mum might feel wow, glad I stuck with it and be
reassured. A mum who has felt she has little choice but to stop
breastfeeding might feel guilty. But which of those did I cause?
Can passing evidence based accurate information cause anything, or is it far more likely that it's down to the person receiving the information? Lets take the non breastfeeding mum again - within that group you might have someone who knew all this, decided to formula feed anyway (ie decided for them the risks were still comparatively small, and compared to their current situation were a better option) or you might have the mum that didn't know and wished she had as she had decided not to bother trying, because she had been sold the concept formula was "just as good". Or you might have the mum who tried everything and the support failed her, who instead of blaming those who should have helped her, fruitlessly blames herself....another in an identical situation might rightly blame those who were supposed to inform her, and not blame herself for something she didn't even know! It all depends on the person receiving the information...
For me the guilt culture has gone too far when it stops us giving mums the information they need to make their "choice" - the thing so many claim is a mother's right. What about a mother's right to the facts? Isn't it insulting to mothers to assume all would feel the same emotion upon receiving the facts? Perhaps they could ask the mother whether she would like to know the facts as we best understand them, or the airy fairy version they think you can handle? At what point will someone take legal action because information was withheld from them?
As we always say "an informed choice is a happy choice."