Objective. To described child care practices associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in nonindustrialized 19th and 20th century societies.
Methodology. The Human Relations Area Files collection is a unique source of information on the cultures of the world. The electronic version of the Human Relations Area Files represents 200 000 pages of fully indexed cultural material on a stratified random sample of 60 nonindustrialized societies. Using various keyword combinations, texts containing information related to sleeping conditions, social interaction, temperature regulation, feeding, and smoking were identified and using structured questionnaire practices were recorded as being present, absent, or not stated.
Results. Relevant information was identified for 53 societies. None of 4 societies mentioning sleep position used the prone position. Swaddling and restraint were commonly practiced, often for extended periods of time. Most information was available on infant feeding and the predominant pattern was of demand breastfeeding for long periods. In many of the cultures, infants are seen as being the focus of attention, in close contact with and under the constant supervision of the mother, siblings, and other relatives.
Conclusions. The study produced no clear evidence that these primarily nonindustrialized societies followed child care practices likely to protect against SIDS. Despite limitations, the information presented should be of interest to those involved in developing reduce the risks programs for SIDS prevention, because it highlights the considerable variation in child care practices and emphasizes that health education messages may not always be cross-culturally valid.
- Received June 17, 1999.
- Accepted December 1, 1999.
- Copyright © 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics