This National Infant Sleep Position study consisted of telephone surveys of nighttime caregivers (usually mothers) of babies aged 7 months or younger. About 1,000 interviews were conducted each year between 1993 and 2007 across the United States.
Throughout the period, the rate of supine sleep (on the back) increased while prone sleeping (on the stomach) decreased over all groups.
But in 2001, that downward slope leveled off across the board.
Those putting babies to sleep on their stomachs, regardless of race, were more likely to express worries about comfort and choking and say they had not been given a clear directive from a doctor.
Yet neither choking nor comfort should be a concern.
"There have been a couple of good studies that babies do not choke on their backs, that there are no adverse health outcomes of putting babies on their back," Colson said.
"Stomach sleepers spend more time in deeper sleep but that doesn't mean they're not sleeping when they're on their back," Willinger said. Back sleepers "may wake up more frequently but young babies like that are going to be up to nurse anyway."
Even sleeping on the side can be risky for babies, Willinger stressed. That's because babies placed on their sides often roll on to their stomachs.
Almost half the mothers surveyed in the study said that they had received no advice at all from their physician or that he/she had recommended stomach sleeping.
"This gives us a very strong warning signal that we're not doing a very good job in part of our population, and signal that there may be more ethnic differences," said Dr. Andrew Colin, director of pediatric pulmonology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
In fact, those ethnic differences may even be biological, he stated, and not resolvable by placin
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