Sleeping on stomach increases SIDS risk: Most definitive study ever

Researchers have conducted the most definitive study of its kind to show that sleeping on the stomach increases the risk of U.S. infants for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Previously, researchers had relied largely on overseas studies for making the recommendation that infants be placed on the back to sleep in order to reduce their risk for SIDS.

The study focused primarily on SIDS cases among African Americans, a group at roughly twice the risk for SIDS than are Caucasians.

The findings appear in Pediatrics, October 2002. The research was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study results provide strong support for the American Academy of Pediatrics' 1992 and 1996 recommendations that infants be placed to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. The research also underscores the urgency of current programs to ensure that African Americans receive this recommendation.

"This is the largest, most comprehensive study of SIDS risk in an urban, high-risk setting," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. "Other studies have linked sleeping on the stomach with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but the Chicago Infant Mortality Study makes the strongest case to date."

"Racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality have been among the most persistent in our society," said James Marks, M.D., director of CDC's chronic disease program. "This study suggests that at least some of the disparity can be eliminated by wide use of the back sleeping position among African-American infants."

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