Safe Sleep Practices for Baby
For the past two decades experts have been spreading the important message about safe infant sleep — reminding parents and caregivers that the safest place for a baby to sleep is on her back, in a crib (or bassinet) of her own, and without blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or bumpers. But it seems not everyone has gotten the memo. Two new studies presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting this week have found that many parents don’t follow safe baby sleep practices — and that could be why each year thousands of babies die unexpectedly while they’re sleeping.
In the first study, researchers from Yale University surveyed over 1,000 moms with babies between two and six months of age. They asked the new moms about baby care practices, including bed sharing and infant sleeping position, and they found that parents aren’t always following the recommendations known to reduce the incidence of SIDS, such as “Back to Sleep” or not sharing a bed.
Overall, 18.5 percent of mothers reported sharing a bed with their infant. The rate was highest among Hispanics (28 percent) followed by African Americans (18.4 percent) and Caucasians (13.7 percent). What’s more, about 10 percent of all mothers routinely put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, despite the recommendation that sleeping on the back is the safest way for a baby to sleep. The rate was highest among African Americans (21.6 percent) followed by Caucasians (10.4 percent) and Hispanics (7.1 percent).
In a second study, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital looked at data from nearly 400,000 infants born in the U.S. between 2000 and 2011. They found that nearly one-third of babies are still being put to sleep on their stomach — and the number of preterm babies being put to sleep on their tummies is even higher, with the most preterm infants (those who are born at less than 28 weeks) having the lowest rate of back sleep positioning. Another interesting finding: Back sleeping positioning varied widely by state, with Alabama having the lowest rate at 50 percent and Wisconsin having the highest rate at 81 percent.
“Given that [the back] sleep positioning significantly reduces an infant’s risk for SIDS, it is worrisome that only two-thirds of full-term infants born in the U.S. are being placed back-to-sleep,” said lead author Sunah S. Hwang. “More concerning is that adherence to safe sleep positioning is even lower for preterm infants who are at even greater risk for SIDS compared to term infants.”
Clearly, the message bears repeating: You can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS by always putting your infant to sleep on her back (make sure Grandma and all caregivers do so, too) and by using a firm mattress and tightly-fitted sheets for baby’s crib. That also means no bumpers, comforters, fluffy blankets, or pillows. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents but not in the same bed, since bed sharing puts babies at higher risk for SIDS — especially when parents drink too much, smoke, or fail to make sure the bed is safe for baby.
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