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Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) affects 7,000 babies in the United States each year, and is the leading cause of mortality for American newborns. For years, parents in this country have been told that there is little they can do to preveot SIDS. But recent studies in Europe, New Zealand and Australia show that sleeping position has a dramatic effect on the incidence of this poorly understood disease.

More than 25 studies in a dozen countries have shown that fewer babies die of SIDS if they are sleeping on their back rather than their belly. The reasons are not clear, but researchers theorize that breathing difficulties are less likely when the baby is on its back.

National public-service campaigns in the Netherlands and Britain to place babies on their backs have cut the incidence of SIDS in half. But in the United States, where as many as three-fourths of the infants are still placed on their stomach, many pediatricians are still skeptical. While lying on their back, babies may vomit or choke more easily, says Dr. Susan Orenstein, a pediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This is a particular risk with premature or underweight infants. In addition, she says, it is not fully clear from the European studies whether it is the sleeping position or some other factor that accounts for the drop in SIDS rates. Last year a task force of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that healthy, full-term babies be placed on their side or back. The decision was not widely publicized, and continues to be controversial. "We doo't have U.S. data to support it," says SIDS Alliance spokeswoman Phipps Cohe. But New Zealand pediatrician Shirley Tonkin points out, "There is a reluctance on the part of medical people to admit that what they had been recommending in the past could be harmful."

From TIME, July 5, 1993.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Special Delivery
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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