Safe Infant Sleep: Many Parents Still Not Following Guidelines, Study Finds

New research finds that most new parents are aware that the safest sleeping position for their babies is on their backs. But many parents are not following other important safe sleep practices, according to the study released this week in Pediatrics.

Overall, most new moms reported placing their infants to sleep on their backs (78 percent). However, fewer reported room-sharing without bed-sharing (57 percent), avoiding soft bedding (42 percent) and using a separate approved sleep surface (32 percent). Several demographic and racial/ethnic differences were identified.

Researchers examined survey data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health departments in 29 states as part of the new study. Moms who said they received advice about “safe sleep practices from health care providers were more likely to practice them,” according to a news release about the study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

More than 90 percent of mothers reported receiving advice from healthcare providers to place their infant on their backs to sleep. However, receiving advice on other safe sleep practices was less frequently reported.

(Video: Watch Cynthia M. Amaro, M.D., pediatric neonatologist at Baptist Children’s Hospital, provide vital tips on safe sleeping practices to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Video by Dylan Kyle.)

About 3,500 infant deaths occur each year from sleep-related causes, says the AAP. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) refers to the mostly sleep-related death of an otherwise healthy infant, most commonly occurring during the first six months of life. 

It is highly recommended that infants be placed on their backs for sleeping. What is NOT recommended are the following: placing a baby on his or her stomach or on soft surfaces, such as adult mattresses, or placing a baby under or near soft or loose bedding.

October is SIDS Awareness Month. But despite public information campaigns by U.S. agencies, pediatricians and hospitals, many parents still don’t fully understand the risk factors associated with SIDS. Additionally, learning about SIDS and safe-sleeping is important for all care-givers, including babysitters, grandparents, other relatives and anyone else who might care for babies, according to the Safe Infant Sleep campaign by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Educating New Parents
“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., pediatric neonatologist at Baptist Children’s Hospital.

SIDS rates for the United States have dropped steadily since 1994. But recent studies have confirmed that many parents are still putting their babies to sleep incorrectly, or surround them by loose bedding items, or sleep with their babies in their own large beds. All three of these scenarios amount to SIDS risk factors.

‘False Sense of Security’
Dr. Amaro also warns about increasingly popular products on the market, such as a “cardio-respiratory monitor” that can be attached to the baby. “These monitors don’t have any research (to back their effectiveness) and they can give parents a false sense of security.”

Another “false sense of security” involves putting babies to sleep with their parents, a trend which is on the rise. Experts say that is a troubling trend. Previously published research has found that from 1993 to 2010 the incidence of baby bed-sharing or co-sleeping more than doubled from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent. Instead of bed sharing, health care providers recommend room sharing — keeping baby’s sleep area separate from your sleep area in the same room where parents sleep. Room sharing is known to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

Top Risk Factors
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, babies are at higher risk for SIDS if they:

  • Sleep on their stomachs
  • Sleep on soft surfaces, such as an adult mattress, couch, or chair or under soft coverings
  • Sleep on or under soft or loose bedding
  • Get too hot during sleep
  • Are exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb or in their environment, such as at home, in the car, in the bedroom, or other areas
  • Sleep in an adult bed with parents, other children, or pets; this situation is especially dangerous if:
  1. The adult smokes, has recently had alcohol, or is tired.
  2. The baby is covered by a blanket or quilt.
  3. The baby sleeps with more than one bed-sharer.
  4. The baby is younger than 11 to 14 weeks of age.

(Watch the video now as Dr. Amaro provides detailed tips for new parents that help reduce the risk of SIDS. Video by Dylan Kyle.)

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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