HEALTH: Back is best for sleeping babies, study claims

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Babies put to sleep on their backs are less likely to have a wide range of health problems including coughs, fevers, and stomach cramps than those placed on their fronts.

A study of thousands of infants also showed that babies were better off on their backs than on their sides.

The research followed the Department of Health's Back to Sleep Campaign in 1991 aimed at preventing cot deaths by advising mothers to place their babies on their backs. Evidence had showed that the back position was less associated with sudden infant death than sleeping prone.

Incidence of cot death fell dramatically as more mothers followed the advice. And the new findings published in the latest issue of the American journal Pediatrics showed that of 43 different health problems, only two were linked with an increased risk among infants put to sleep on their backs. They were nappy rash and the scalp skin condition cradle cap.

The research led by Dr Peter Fleming, of the Institute of Child Health at Bristol University, involved sending detailed questionnaires to the mothers of 14,000 infants born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992, in Avon.