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"We didn’t see any differences in the protection in the association with partial breastfeeding versus exclusive breastfeeding," said researcher Fern Hauck of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "If a mother is just breastfeeding partially, meaning just using some formula, she is still going to provide that baby with the same amount of protection."
Past studies have linked breastfeeding to a reduced risk of SIDS, which claimed the lives of about 3,700 infants in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC categorizes SIDS as unexplained death or accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. Sleep environments, such as a crib without pillows and blankets, can also reduce SIDS risk.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months for a variety of health reasons, including reduced SIDS risk.
No one knows exactly why breastfeeding protects babies from SIDS. Some theories suggest it's the milk's abilities to ward off viruses. But, that's an area of research that could use more attention Hauck said.
Among the studies included, the United States had the lowest breastfeeding rate and New Zealand had the highest.
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