Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Despite warnings otherwise, many parents still put their babies at risk by using unsafe bedding
Based on research surrounding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines in 1992 recommending that parents put newborns to sleep on their back and subsequently the rate of SIDS has fallen by 50 percent.
New research released by the National Institutes of Health this week suggests that parents may be putting their newborns at unnecessary risk by putting them to bed in soft, loose bedding.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the new study found that just over half of all American newborns sleep in these potentially dangerous bedding conditions, which increase the risk of suffocation.
“Parents have good intentions but may not understand that blankets, quilts and pillows increase a baby’s risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation,” said study author Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, a reproductive health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control.
The new study is an evaluation of information from the National Infant Sleep Position Survey (NISP), which was gathered to determine the impact of infant sleep location and other infant sleep guidelines. The survey gathered data by telephone from an arbitrary sample of over 1,000 households from 1992 to 2010.
“Parents receive a lot of mixed messages,” said study author Marian Willinger, a SIDS expert at the NIH. “Relatives may give them quilts or fluffy blankets as presents for the new baby, and they feel obligated to use them. Or they see magazine photos of babies with potentially unsafe bedding items. But babies should be placed for sleep on a firm, safety approved mattress and fitted sheet, without any other bedding.”
While the SIDS rate has declined slowly since the early 1990s, scientists have reported a rise in other unforeseen infant deaths, caused by unintentional suffocation, entrapment in bedding or other similar situations. These unintentional suffocation cases have risen from 7 for every 100,000 live US births in 2000 to 15.9 in 2010.
Survey respondents were asked how they put their newborns to sleep, including if they were placed on blankets, bean bag chairs, pillows or other soft surfaces. Respondents were also asked what kind of bedding material the infant was covered in, such as blankets, quilts or comforters.
While many participants said they placed their child in a crib or bassinet on their back, as directed by the AAP, the rate of loose bedding use was 50 percent higher for each year from 2007 to 2010. However, the study did find a decline in the use of thick blankets from 1993-1995 to 2008-2010: 56 percent to 27.4 percent. Quilt use dropped from 39.2 percent to 7.9 percent over that same time span.
“Interestingly, we also observed a greater decline in bedding use over the infants (quilts/comforters and thick blankets) compared with bedding (blankets) under infants,” the study authors wrote. “This finding raises a concern that parents may incorrectly perceive the recommendations as only pertaining to items covering or around the infant, and not include items under the infant.”
The researchers noted that images in the media and advertising depict soft bedding under many pictured infants and said this theme could be unintentionally reinforcing a risky practice.
“Seeing images such as these may reinforce beliefs and perceptions that having these items in the infant sleep area is not only a favorable practice, but also the norm,” the researchers wrote.
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