CHICAGO (AP) — Putting babies to bed on their backs to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome does not lead to other health problems such as stuffy noses and spitting up, a study found.
The findings should help reassure parents and persuade others to get their babies off their bellies, researchers said. Their study was published Monday in May's Archives of Pediatrics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended since 1992 that babies be put to sleep on their backs. But some parents have resisted, in part because of fear their youngsters might throw up and choke on their vomit. Also, many believe that babies sleep better on their stomachs.
The study of 3,733 infants found that those who slept on their backs had no more non-SIDS health problems than babies who slept on their bellies. Researchers looked at conditions including spitting up, fever, trouble sleeping and respiratory problems.
"Nothing was worse. In fact, some things were better," said one of the researchers, Dr. Carl Hunt of the federal National Center on Sleep Disorders Research in Bethesda, Md.
Some symptoms, such as fever at one month and stuffy nose at six months, were less common in babies who slept on their backs. Ear infections also appeared to be less common.
The research was based primarily on interviews with parents between 1995 and 1998 in Massachusetts and Ohio.
"It clearly supports that fact that supine sleeping is the right way to go, the right recommendation to go for otherwise normal children," said Dr. Stephen Sheldon, director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
The study also looked at side sleeping for babies, but that isn't a recommended position for babies, Hunt said.
The academy's recommendation and a public information campaign begun in 1994 to urge parents to put their children to sleep on their backs have helped to reduce the nationwide SIDS rate by about 40 percent.
SIDS still kills about 2,500 infants each year, though the rate of stomach sleeping has decreased.
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