The American Academy of Pediatrics recent study shows parents are unwittingly putting their babies in unsafe sleep environments, even though health care providers and public education campaigns have worked to educate and promote safe and healthy sleep conditions.
Good Housekeeping and ABC conducted a study of sleep arrangements by new mothers, studying about 160 infants at one, three, and six months old. How were the infants put at risk? Researchers found parents were putting the babies on their stomachs and sides, on surfaces that were too soft, beds that contained loose bedding or sharing a bed with their parents.
The results were alarming. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, sleep-related infant deaths are the most common cause of mortality among babies one month to one year of age. The deaths include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation/strangulation in bed.
In this particular study, an upward of 21% of infants were put on sleep surfaces not recommended by experts, 33% in risky positions, and 87% had “hazardous items” around their sleep surface, which includes things like loose blankets, stuffed animals, bumper pads, pillows, and sleep positioners.
According to the CDC, 3,500 die from SIDS alone. ABC’s Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser, says, “There is a lot we can do to reduce the risk a baby will die from SIDS or accidental smothering or strangulation. The Safe to Sleep campaign has been very successful at reducing the rate of SIDS, but accidental suffocation and strangulation are on the rise [Science World Report].”
The American Academy of Pediatrics issues the following recommendations when it comes to safety in infant sleeping conditions:
• Back to sleep for every sleep: Infants should be placed for sleep wholly on their back for every sleep by every caregiver until one year of life. Use a firm sleep surface.
• Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib to reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and entrapment, and strangulation: Soft objects, such as pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads, stuffed toys, and other soft objects should be kept out of an infant's sleeping environment. Loose bedding such as blankets and sheets may be hazardous.
• Avoid overheating: Although studies have revealed an increased risk of SIDS with overheating, the definition of overheating is varied. Therefore, it is difficult to provide specific room temperature guidelines to avoid overheating. The infant should be lightly clothed for sleep, and the bedroom temperature should be kept comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. Over-bundling should be avoided, and the infant should not feel hot to the touch.
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