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Q: Any link between back to sleep campaign and autism ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Any link between back to sleep campaign and autism
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: nkamom-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 02 Nov 2004 20:06 PST
Expires: 02 Dec 2004 20:06 PST
Question ID: 423728
Has anyone studied a correlation between putting infants on their back
to sleep and the recent surge in autistic children?  The back of the
head on several autistic children I have observed seems exceptionally
flat.  Since autism is considered neurological I wondered if anyone
has found a connection between head shape and autism that might be
attributed to the back to sleep campaign.
Subject: Re: Any link between back to sleep campaign and autism
Answered By: librariankt-ga on 03 Nov 2004 08:08 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Nkamom,

The quick answer to your question is that no studies have been
published in the medical literature linking sleep position and autism.

There has been some discussion of whether trigonocephaly (a condition
where the front plates of the skull fuse prematurely, resulting in a
triangular shape to the face and top of the head) _may_ be linked to
autism.  Trigonocephaly is probably genetically linked, and is caused
by a condition called craniosynostosis.  See this abstract for the
genetic link:

Med Hypotheses. 2002 Apr;58(4):337-9. 
Minor form of trigonocephaly is an autistic skull shape? A suggestion
based on homeobox gene variants and MECP2 mutations.
Ijichi S, Ijichi N.

The "flat head" that babies get when they sleep on their backs is
positional plagiocephaly and is usually transient - as the child
starts to sit up more the plates of the head realign.  In severe cases
babies may need to use a special positioner or helmet to help the
skull reform.

Here are some links that may be interesting:

Medem: The Shape of Your Baby's Head: Parents Should Check Shape of
Baby's Head, Vary Sleeping Positions

Mayo Clinic: Flat, uneven or rounded: Why babies' head shapes vary

American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Craniosynostosis and
Craniofacial Disorders

KidsHealth for Parents: Positional Plagiocephaly

I found these links by searching the PubMed MEDLINE database of 15
million articles in medicine and health ( and the
Medlineplus database of consumer health resources
(  Both are sponsored by the US National Library
of Medicine.  Here are keywords I used in PubMed:
skull shape
craniofacial abnormalities
"back to sleep"

In Medlineplus I searched for some of the above keywords, and also
wandered through the links available from the Autism health topic

Please let me know if you have further questions about this or any
other topic by submitting a clarification request!

nkamom-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00

Subject: Re: Any link between back to sleep campaign and autism
From: probonopublico-ga on 02 Nov 2004 22:37 PST
My guess is that it is highly unlikely.
Subject: Re: Any link between back to sleep campaign and autism
From: nkamom-ga on 03 Nov 2004 11:45 PST
My guess is that it is highly unlikely too, but then many people
thought it highly unlikely that Christopher Columbus would ever return
from his trip. I don't think my theory is way out there, that a young
child's developing brain might be affected by gravity, or that
neurological pathways might be altered by the shape of the skull.  If
someday researchers find a link, I want credit for my genius.

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