Objectives. We examined relationships between otitis media risk factors, sociodemographic characteristics, and maternal knowledge and attitudes and early onset of otitis media. Methods. Pregnant women from Minnesota American Indian reservations and an urban clinic were enrolled in our study between 1998 and 2001. Follow-up was performed on enrollees' infants until the children were 2 years old. Research nurses collected data by ear examination, from interviews and questionnaires given to enrolled mothers, and otitis media episodes that were abstracted from medical records. Results. Sixty-three percent of infants had experienced an otitis media episode by 6 months of age. Logistic regression analyses showed that maternal otitis media history, infant history of upper respiratory infection, and compliance with study visits were significantly related to early otitis media onset. Although high percentages of infants were exposed to cigarette smoke and other children and were formula fed, these factors were not related to otitis media. Mothers' prenatal awareness of otitis media risks associated with environmental tobacco smoke exposure and formula feeding did not predict their postpartum behaviors. Conclusions. We found that infant history of upper respiratory infection and maternal otitis media history are risk factors for early otitis media in American Indian infants. Mothers' prepartum knowledge and attitudes regarding otitis media did not predict their postpartum avoidance of risk behaviors.