Safe sleeping positions: practice and policy for babies with cleft palate

Karen Davies, Iain Bruce, Patricia Bannister, Peter Callery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Guidance recommends ‘back to sleep’ positioning for infants from birth in order to reduce the risk of sudden infant death. Exceptions have been made for babies with severe respiratory difficulties where lateral positioning may be recommended, although uncertainty exists for other conditions affecting the upper airway structures, such as cleft palate. This paper presents research of (i) current advice on sleep positioning provided to parents of infants with cleft palate in the UK; and (ii) decision making by clinical nurse specialists when advising parents of infants with cleft palate. A qualitative descriptive study used data from a national survey with clinical nurse specialists from 12 regional cleft centres in the UK to investigate current practice. Data were collected using semi-structured telephone interviews and analysed using content analysis. Over half the regional centres used lateral sleep positioning based on clinical judgement of the infants’ respiratory effort and upper airway obstruction. Assessment relied upon clinical judgement augmented by a range of clinical indicators, such as measures of oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiration.

Conclusion: Specialist practitioners face a clinical dilemma between adhering to standard ‘back to sleep’ guidance and responding to clinical assessment of respiratory effort for infants with cleft palate. In the absence of clear evidence, specialist centres rely on clinical judgement regarding respiratory problems to identify what they believe is the most appropriate sleeping position for infants with cleft palate. Further research is needed to determine the best sleep position for an infant with cleft palate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-667
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number5
Early online date22 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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