National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development
The researchers also collected information about bedding materials, type of mattress, room- or bed-sharing, room temperature, exposure to passive smoking, and infant sickness.
The researchers found that infants last placed on their sides for sleep were twice more likely to die of SIDS than infants last placed on their backs. In addition, the risk of SIDS was significantly increased if infants turned from their sides to their stomachs during sleep. While the reason isn't clear, the researchers think that the instability of the side position makes it more likely for babies who are placed to sleep in this position to roll over onto their stomachs.
A pattern also emerged when the researchers looked specifically at the position in which an infant was last placed to sleep, compared to their usual sleeping position. If an infant who was usually placed to sleep in the low-risk position on the back was then placed to sleep in a high-risk position (the stomach or side), his or her SIDS risk was seven to eight times greater than that of an infant who was always placed to sleep on his or her back.
"The message here is 'every night and nap time count'," said study co-author Dr. Marian Willinger of NICHD. "Parents and caregivers should place their babies on their backs every time they go to sleep. Consistency is the key."
One of the strengths of this study is that the researchers interviewed a racially and culturally diverse group of mothers White, African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander, although the small sample size limited the researchers' ability to examine risk within each racial group. This study provides results from the first study of infant sleeping position in relation to SIDS risk to be collected entirely after the NICHD's "Back to Sleep" campaign was launched to inform the public about the importance of sleep position in preventing SIDS.
The NICHD and the NIDCD are part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical research arm of the federal government. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. NICHD publications, as well as information about the Institute, are available from the NICHD Web site, http://www.nichd.nih.gov, or from the NICHD Clearinghouse, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail NICHDClearinghouse@mail.nih.gov. The NIDCD supports and conducts research and research training on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech and language and provides health information, based upon scientific discovery, to the public. For more information about NIDCD programs: www.nidcd.nih.gov.
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