Objective: To determine whether two recent, nonsynchronized recommendations to avoid the prone position for sleeping infants were each followed by a decline in the incidence or expected number of cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Data sources: Data were collected from SIDS counseling programs, state vital statistics, and medical examiner records of 44 states and the city of Los Angeles, Calif. Data for a state were excluded because of either incompleteness or nonresponsiveness to request.
Data synthesis: In the 8 months following an article in the Seattle Times advising against the use of the prone position for sleeping infants, the incidence of SIDS fell by 52.0% in King County (where 32 households in every 100 receive the Seattle Times) and by 19.9% in Snohomish County (16 in 100 households). In the remaining 37 counties of Washington State (on average, < 1 in 100 households are subscribers), the incidence rose 3.4%. Examination of medical examiner records for King County and Snohomish County revealed no compensatory increase in other causes of death and no cases attributed to aspiration. In the 12 months following the initial 8 months, the number of SIDS cases in King County remained at approximately half the previous annual average (25 vs 49 cases). At the national level, the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation on April 15, 1992, was followed in the next 6 months by a decrease of 12.0% in the number of SIDS cases compared with the previous year.
Conclusions: The results are consistent with those of intervention programs in other countries. A national campaign to inform parents of the risk of the prone position in early infancy should be given serious consideration.