A team of researchers report in the May 5, 2003, issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that babies who are placed to sleep on their backs are less likely to develop fevers, get stuffy noses or develop otitis media (ear infection) and are not at increased risk for health problems. Placing babies to sleep on their backs has also been found to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
"Otitis media causes suffering in babies and young children, costs the American public an estimated five billion dollars per year and results in overuse of antibiotics," says James F. Battey Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NICHD). "The research showing that putting infants on their backs to sleep is saving lives is now revealing an outstanding additional benefit, the reduction of otitis media in infants," he adds.
The researchers of the recent study analyzed information collected on 3,733 U.S. babies whose mothers reported that their babies were always placed to sleep in the same position. The information collection began in 1995.
When the babies were one, three and six months of age, the researchers questioned the babies' mothers about whether the babies had such symptoms as fever, cough, wheezing, stuffy nose, trouble breathing, trouble sleeping and vomiting. The researchers found that at one month of age, babies sleeping on their backs were less likely to have come down with a fever than were babies sleeping on their stomachs. At six months, back sleepers were less likely to develop a stuffy nose than were stomach sleepers. At three and six months, back sleepers needed to visit the doctor less often for ear infections than did stomach sleepers. Moreover, at six months, the mothers of back sleepers reported fewer instances in which their babies had trouble sleeping than did the mothers of stomach sleepers. None of the babies in the study was reported to have choked on their vomit.