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There it was in black and white, another amendment to the common sense constitution of child rearing.

The National Institute of Child Health and Development announced this week that a 30 percent drop in the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the result of a two-year campaign to put babies to bed on their backs instead of on their stomachs.The "Back to Sleep" blitz was credited with saving 1,500 babies in the United States over the past two years. And in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where the change was first proposed, the drop in SIDS deaths was said to be even greater, cut by as much as half in some countries.

Think of it. Thousands of babies spared, along with their parents' grief, by something so simple.

Think, too, of how that news would strike you if you heard it too late, after losing a baby to SIDS.

It's every parent's nightmare. You do the best you can, read all the baby books from Dr. Spock to Dr. Seuss.

You listen to the "experts" - your doctor, your childbirth instructor, your mother, your mother-in-law, even the grocery store grandmas who'll gladly tell you how to pick a ripe papaya or raise a proper child.

And if you're lucky, the kid will grow up healthy, get a scholarship to Harvard, a job with benefits, and never write a best-seller about you.

Or at least, she'll get to grow up. That in itself is no small miracle. If you've ever chased a toddler on a playground or dodged a 12-year-old on a skateboard or ridden in a car with a teenager learning to drive, you probably know what I mean.

Children are born into a hostile world, hell-bent on their own destruction. It's a wonder they survive at all. Especially if their parents don't have the sense to put them to bed right side up.

There are things I'd do differently as a mother. I'd read more, worry less and hire a better class of sitters.

But I wouldn't change a thing about the way I put my babies to bed. Except I'd have them sleep on their backs, of course, now that I know better. And I'd linger a bit longer to pat their bellies.