Gastric aspiration and sleeping position in infancy and early childhood

J Paediatr Child Health. 2000 Aug;36(4):403-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2000.00503.x.


Concern has been expressed that the recommendation of supine sleeping position for infants would result in an increase in deaths due to gastric aspiration. A review of 196 cases of infant and early childhood death in children under 3 years of age, occurring over a 9-year period (September 1989 to August 1998) was undertaken to ascertain how many cases of significant gastric aspiration had occurred. Extensive and widespread filling of the airways/alveoli with gastric contents was found in three infants/young children aged 5, 6 and 30 months, respectively. In each instance the body had been found lying face down (prone), with the face in a pool of vomitus in at least one case. No cases of significant gastric aspiration were found in infants who had been found lying on their sides or backs (supine). In addition, no significant increase in numbers of infant and early childhood deaths in South Australia due to gastric aspiration over this time could be demonstrated. Concerns that the supine rather than the prone position is more likely to result in significant gastric aspiration are not supported by this study.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / complications
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / etiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology
  • Supine Position*