May 8, 2007 / 12:52 AM / 12 years ago

Sleeping on back safe for hospitalized newborns

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Newborns that sleep on their backs (the supine position) in hospital nurseries seldom if ever spit up and when they do, it does not lead to any significant complications, new research indicates.

While the “back to sleep” position is recommended to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, some hospital staff may be reluctant to place newborns on their backs while sleeping out of fear of aspiration, note researchers.

But no studies to date have examined how often spitting up occurs in the back sleeping position and whether it has serious consequences, according to Dr. May Anne Tablizo, from the Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera, and colleagues.

To investigate, they had nursing staff record how often spitting up occurred during the first 24 hours of life, the infant’s sleeping position at the time, and the clinical consequences for 3,240 healthy full-term infants in nurseries at two hospitals.

Nearly 97 percent of infants never spit up during sleep, the team reports in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Of the 142 spit-up episodes observed, 130 occurred while the infant was asleep in the supine position. Fifty-five percent of these episodes required no intervention and 37 percent required simple suctioning only. None of the spit-up episodes were associated with any major adverse health effects.

More spit-up episodes might have been seen with other sleeping positions, the authors note, but both hospitals had policies advocating the back sleeping position.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, May 2007.

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