Australian mothers are being advised for the first time to breastfeed their babies to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome, after experts found it could more than halve the risk of death.
Updated safe sleeping guidelines now recommend women "breastfeed baby if you can", after SIDS and Kids said it was clear breastfeeding reduced the chances of a baby dying unexpectedly.
Until now, the health advocacy group had not made a firm recommendation because of conflicting research findings about SIDS and breastfeeding.
But a US review published in the journal Pediatrics last year found breastfed babies were about 60 per cent less likely to die from SIDS than those not given breast milk.
Researchers said possible reasons included breastfed infants being more easily aroused from sleep than formula-fed babies and breastfeeding providing antibodies that protected infants from infection during the period they were most at risk of SIDS.
Now an Australian review has had similar findings.
Queensland-based author of the review and safe sleeping expert, Adjunct Professor Jeanine Young, said consistent findings of studies over the past 15 years showed that along with maternal and infant health benefits, breastfeeding helped reduce the risk of SIDS.
"We have now reached a point where conclusive evidence from numerous studies demonstrates breast milk can reduce sudden and unexpected death in infancy," she said.
"An analysis of the results of 18 studies show the risk of sudden and unexpected infant death is significantly reduced for mothers who exclusively breastfeed and for a longer duration of breastfeeding."
Though the link with breastfeeding was now confirmed, Professor Young said it was one of six key recommendations.
"Other contributing factors, like not smoking near babies and sleeping babies on their back, are equally important ways to significantly reduce the risk," she said.
SIDS and Kids chief executive Leanne Raven said it was important that parents had the latest information to help them care for their babies.
The revised guidelines have been announced ahead of the 25th anniversary of Red Nose Day, the flagship fundraiser for SIDS and Kids, on June 29.
Eighty-one Australian babies died of SIDS in 2010, including two in WA.
Almost 4000 Australian babies died of SIDS between 1989 and 2010.