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Too Many Babies Still Placed in Unsafe Sleep Positions, CDC Reports

There are still too many preventable, sleep-related deaths among U.S. babies, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are about 3,500 sleep-related deaths each year, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation, and deaths from unknown causes.

During the 1990s, sharp declines were seen in sleep-related deaths following the national “Back to Sleep” safety campaign by public health officials and different organizations. However, the declines have slowed since the late 1990s – and data from a new Vital Signs report [1] from the CDC finds that the risk for babies persists, despite the ongoing Safe Infant Sleep campaign by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

“Unfortunately, too many babies in this country are lost to sleep-related deaths that might be prevented,” said CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “We must do more to ensure every family knows the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations – babies should sleep on their backs, without any toys or soft bedding, and in their own crib. Parents are encouraged to share a room with the baby, but not the same bed. These strategies will help reduce the risk and protect our babies from harm.”

CDC in its report examined 2015 data reported by mothers about unsafe sleep positioning, any bed sharing and use of soft bedding from U.S. states with available data. Unsafe sleep positioning means placing the baby on his or her side or stomach to sleep. Soft bedding includes pillows, blankets, bumper pads, stuffed toys and sleep positioners.

About 1 in 5 mothers (21.6 percent) reported placing their baby to sleep on their side or stomach, and more than half of mothers (61.4 percent) reported any bed sharing with their baby, the CDC said. Additionally, 2 in 5 mothers (38.5 percent) reported using any soft bedding in the baby’s sleep area.

Placing babies on their side or stomach to sleep was more common among mothers who were non-Hispanic black, younger than 25, or had 12 or fewer years of education, the agency said.

“There are many, many new things to learn when you’re a new parent, but SIDS is one of those things where we can reduce the risk factors for a devastating outcome for the baby,” says Cynthia M. Amaro, M.D. [2], pediatric neonatologist at Baptist Children’s Hospital [3].

The American Academy of Pediatrics [4] (AAP) recommends that doctors have conversations with families about their babies’ sleep habits. Last year, the AAP recommended that parents place newborns in their room, but definitely not in their bed. When newborns are sleeping in a crib or bassinet in the same room as their parents for at least six months, the risk of SIDS decreases by 50 percent, the AAP reported.

Here are four tips for parents and caregivers from the CDC to ensure that babies sleep safely:

  1. Place your baby on his or her back for all sleep times, naps and at night.
  2. Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib.
  3. Keep soft objects, such as pillows and loose bedding, out of baby’s sleep area.
  4. Have baby share your room — but not your bed.