Intervention to avoid the prone sleeping position during infancy has occurred in various countries after evidence that it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This study examined cohort data to determine if correlates of the prone position differed by period of birth, before intervention (1 May 1988 to 30 April 1991) compared with after intervention (1 May 1991 to 30 April 1992). The usual prone sleeping position was more closely associated with the following factors after intervention: teenage motherhood, low maternal education, paternal unemployment, unmarried motherhood, non-specialist antenatal care, not reading books to prepare for a baby, poor smoking hygiene, and bottle feeding. For example, the association of usual prone position with being unmarried shown by the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) was 0.54 (0.47 to 0.63) in the period before intervention and 1.92 (1.18 to 3.15) in the period after intervention. The alteration in correlates of the prone position reported here provide an example to support the theoretical concept that well known 'modifiable' risk factors for disease tend to be associated with each other in both populations and individuals. This phenomenon was not evident in the population before intervention, that is, before the prone sleeping position became a well known SIDS risk factor.
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