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Tuesday, July 21, 1998 Published at 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK


Babies 'should sleep on their backs'

US research confirms that cot deaths fall if babies sleep on their backs

Babies are less likely to suffer cot death if they sleep on their backs or sides, according to American research.

A study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development brings together several research studies and confirms previous studies.

One piece of research in the study showed that sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death fell by around 38% between 1992 and 1996.

At the same time, the number of parents placing their children to sleep on their stomachs dropped by 66%.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Assiciation, the researchers say a cause and effect relationship is not conclusive, but they think the evidence is compelling.

Peak age

The research also found that some mothers initially placed their babies to sleep on their backs, but after three months, 11% began putting them to sleep on their stomachs.

The peak age for SIDS is between two and four months of age.

Marian Willinger, who conducted one of the studies called the National Infant Sleep Position Study, said: "These findings indicate the importance of educating all caregivers about continuing the back sleeping position throughout the first year of life."

Other research found that mothers from certain ethnic groups - particularly black women, those with less than a high school education and mothers on low income were more likely to place their children face down in their cots.

The researchers say more investigation is needed into why this is the case.

They also believe information on the risks of putting babies to sleep on their stomachs needs to be targeted at these groups.

Another factor influencing mothers was the way nurses put babies to sleep in hospital.

Mothers who saw nurses putting new-born babies to sleep on their stomachs were more likely to do so themselves.

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