A study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood may explain why babies who sleep on their stomachs are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers found that this sleeping position impairs the circulation of blood and oxygen in infants.
Stomach sleeping has been linked to SIDS in recent years and experts advise parents to put infants on their backs or sides to sleep. It has been unclear why the face down sleeping position increases SIDS risk.
The researchers found that in babies, sleeping face down seems to interfere with the body's system of controlling blood vessel dilation and constriction. Babies between the ages of two and four months are at highest risk for SIDS, the most common cause of infant death after the newborn period.
While SIDS kills apparently healthy babies in their sleep, studies have suggested that parents can cut SIDS risk. Besides its link to stomach sleeping, SIDS has also been connected to sleeping on soft surfaces, overheating during sleep and mothers' smoking during pregnancy.
Source: Archives of Disease in Childhood 2000;82:253-256.