Context: The prone sleep position is associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but few studies have assessed factors associated with the choice of infant sleep position.
Objectives: To describe infant sleep position in a cohort of infants born to predominantly low-income, inner-city mothers and to identify predictors of the prone sleep position in this population.
Design: Prospective birth cohort study.
Patients and setting: Three hundred ninety-four mother-infant dyads, systematically selected from 3 District of Columbia hospitals between August 1995 and September 1996. Mothers were interviewed shortly after delivery and again at 3 to 7 months postpartum.
Main outcome measures: Position in which infants were placed for sleep on the night prior to the 3- to 7-month interview.
Results: At 3 to 7 months of age, 157 infants (40%) were placed for sleep in the prone position. Independent predictors of prone sleep position included poverty (odds ratio [OR], 1.81; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-2.99), black race (OR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.05-4.04), presence of infant's grandmother in the home (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.11-3.00), and intent, as measured shortly after delivery, to place the infant in the prone position (OR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.44-3.60). Importantly, of the 43 mothers who observed their infants in the prone sleep position while in the hospital, 40 (93%) intended to place their infants prone at home.
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of infants in this predominantly low-income population were placed in the prone sleep position. Educational efforts should address both initial intentions and reinforcement of the correct sleep position, once initiated. Hospitals should ensure that healthy newborn infants are placed in the supine sleep position during the postpartum hospital stay.