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Sleeping position in infants over 6 months of age: implications for theories of sudden infant death syndrome.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

  • Linda M. Harrison
  • James A. Morris
  • David R. Telford
  • Susan M. Brown
  • Keith Jones
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>08/1999
<mark>Journal</mark>FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology
Issue number1-2
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)29-35
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of prone and supine sleeping in infants aged 0–12 months and relate this to changes in the number of cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) since 1985. Seventy-two babies, 38 male and 34 female, were followed for the first 18 months of life with regular home visits and sleeping position was recorded. In addition, data on the number of cases of SIDS in England and Wales between 1985 and 1995 were analysed. All babies slept supine for the first 5 months of life, but once they could turn over in their cots (mean age 7.34 months, range 5–11 months) the majority slept prone. By 11 months of age, 53 regularly slept prone (73%, 95% CI ±19.8%), while 11 slept supine, three adopted the side position and five varied from night to night. The number of cases of SIDS in infants aged 7–11 months has fallen significantly ( P<0.0001 ) in a period in which the prevalence of prone sleeping, in that age group, has not changed. The most plausible explanation for this paradoxical result is that supine sleeping in the first 5 months of life reduces the absolute risk of SIDS in the second 6 months of life even though most babies are then sleeping prone. It is suggested that reduced exposure to nasopharyngeal bacterial superantigens in babies sleeping prone might explain this effect.