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Research Uncovers Clue to SIDS
Date:3/3/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- A new Australian study finds that babies who sleep on their stomachs -- a position thought to pose a risk for SIDS -- have lower levels of oxygen in their brains than those who sleep on their backs.

The discovery suggests that a lack of oxygen could explain why babies in such a position are at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome while sleeping: Their brains may be less able to wake them up when they're in danger from not breathing.

The research also backs current recommendations on the prevention of SIDS that suggest infants be put on their backs to sleep. "For a lot of parents, it's important for them to know why something works before they do it. If we can make this link, if we can say that if your baby is on his stomach, he's not getting enough oxygen to his brain, it'll help parents see why this might be true," said Dr. Rachel Moon, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center who studies SIDS.

The disorder has been documented since Biblical times, when it was called overlaying, explained study co-author Rosemary S.C. Horne, of the Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research at the Monash Institute of Medical Research at Monash University in Melbourne. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the number of SIDs cases rose because parents were encouraged to put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, Horne said.

"This was advocated, as sick preterm infants were shown to breath better in this position," she said. "It was a case of changing infant care practices without proper scientific evidence to do this. Around the world, most babies sleep on their backs and are even kept there in devices such as cradle boards."

In the new study, the Australian researchers sought to better understand what happens when babies sleep on their stomachs and why they face a greater risk of not being able to rouse themselves when something
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