Determinants of infant sleep position in an urban population

Rachel Y. Moon, Rodney Omron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The incidence of SIDS has decreased by 40% since the Back to Sleep campaign was initiated. However, the rate of SIDS in the District of Columbia continues to be approximately double the national rate. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and determinants of prone sleeping among infants in the District of Columbia and to ascertain what information is being provided to parents by health care professionals by a cross-sectional survey of parents of infants 0-6 months of age presenting for well child care at Children's Health Center, Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, DC. We recruited a consecutive sample of 126 parent-infant pairs, of which 92.9% were African-American. The average infant was 73 days old, was 3,003 grams at birth, and was full term. When asked how the infants were placed for sleep the night before the interview, 34.1% of parents had placed the infant supine, 50.8% side, and 15.1% prone. Nearly half (48%) of infants slept in an adult bed with the mother. More than one third of the infants had been placed prone for sleep at least once since hospital discharge. Most common reasons for sleeping supine included SIDS risk reduction or health care professional advice. Side sleepers did so primarily because of concern about vomiting, health care provider advice, or SIDS. Infants were placed prone primarily because the infant slept better. When asked about information received from a health care provider, 70.6% of parents stated that they had received information about sleep position and 64.3% about the hazards of passive smoking. Eight parents observed nursery personnel placing their infants prone. Only 16.7% of the total study population had received a Back to Sleep brochure, read it, and recalled that it recommended back sleeping. Infants were more likely to sleep prone if there was a grandparent in the home (OR 2.9, p<0.05) or if they were the firstborn (OR 2.17, p<0.05). Infants were more likely to sleep supine if parents had heard a back recommendation from a health care professional (OR 5.7, p<0.001). Infants were least likely to sleep supine if the parents had heard a side or a side/back recommendation (OR 0.26, p=0.001). Infant sleep position was not affected by receiving or reading the Back to Sleep brochure. In conclusion, more than one third (35.7%) of infants in this predominantly African-American population have been placed prone for sleep at least once; 15% slept prone the night before the interview. Almost one third of parents received no information about sleep position, but parents receiving a verbal supine recommendation were most likely to place their infant supine. Receiving written information did not affect sleep position. Improved educational efforts for parents of African-American newborns should continue to focus on encouraging supine positioning, smoke cessation, and other safe sleep practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-573
Number of pages5
JournalClinical pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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