Infant Sleep Safety Practices

Photo Credit: Free from Stock Snap

Photo Credit: Free from Stock Snap

According to a new article in Pediatrics, many parents still aren’t following safe sleep guidelines with their babies, reports Ariel Brewster in Today’s Parent magazine.  The study found that over 90% of parents let their babies sleep with loose blankets or ‘stuffies’, and that parents are still not consistently following the “back sleep” rule.

Researchers at Penn State University set up video cameras with 160 families in central Pennsylvania and recorded their babies throughout the night at one month, three months and six months of age.  Originally designed to look at where infants are put to sleep, how often their mothers picked them up, and the effects that had on mothers’ mental health and their marital relationships, the researchers reviewing the tapes noticed the prevalence of unsafe behaviours.  They observed:

  • Babies being put to bed with loose blankets, crib bumpers, pillows, sleep positioners and stuffed animals in the crib or bassinet
  • Babies being placed positioned on their side or stomach instead of on their backs
  • Babies being moved after a wakeup and placed in a swing, car seat, or bed-sharing with a parent

The article includes a video on Safe Co-Sleeping Tips that gives the following advice:

  • Remove excess pillows and coverings
  • Have a firm mattress
  • Make sure there are no gaps between the mattress and the headboard
  • Don’t have any other children or pets in the bed (they lack the necessary safety awareness)
  • Don’t take sleep medications or anything that might make you slow to wake or hear your baby
  • If in doubt, don’t!

The BC Council for Families (BCCF) reported on the study in an article on their website Unsafe infant Sleep Practices Widespread. Ian Paul, paediatrician and one of the study co-authors, comments, “The reason parents are using unsafe sleeping practices could be attributed to a lack of knowledge, a belief that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) won’t happen to them, mixed messages (such as retailers marketing unsafe products including crib bumpers) and parental exhaustion”.

The BCCF report notes that, whilst the number of cases of SIDS has decreased dramatically in Canada, it is still the leading cause of death of infants under one, and is more prevalent among infants who are male, underweight or premature, exposed to secondhand smoke and from lower socio-economic backgrounds.  The report also reminds that SIDS is three times more common in Aboriginal communities.

The study recommends that parents take the safety recommendations very seriously, and encourages paediatric specialists and family physicians to explain safe sleep guidelines, “clearly and repeatedly, at every doctor’s visit”.