Parents Still Not Following Safe Baby Sleep Guidelines, Study Shows

The “Back to Sleep” campaign launched in the ‘90s has made us aware of the importance of the posture of a baby while it's sleeping. But do you know there are other crucial aspects of putting your baby to bed that are less talked about, like the dangers of bed-sharing and soft bedding for infants too? In fact, a new study suggests most parents don't follow these other safe sleep practices!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, parents must take the following essential steps to keep babies safe while sleeping:

  • Place infants on their backs
  • Share the room with an infant, but not the bed
  • Avoid soft bedding
  • Use a separate, approved sleep surface — which is a crib, bassinet or pack and play that meets the safety standards set by the CPSC
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A study that was released in yesterday's issue of Pediatrics found that most (specifically 78%) of mothers put their babies to sleep on their backs but not many follow other recommendations for keeping infants safe while sleeping.

Only 57% were both room-sharing and not bed-sharing, 42% percent avoided soft bedding for the baby, and merely 32% were using a separate, approved sleep surface for their child.  According to the AAP report, around 3,500 infants die every year due to sleep-related causes. Every time parents do not follow the recommendations, they jeopardize the lives of their infants.

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Senior scientist at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and study author, Ph.D. Ashley H. Hirai says to SheKnows, “We have substantial room for improvement for these sleep practices." She feels similar to the "Back to Sleep" campaign; more awareness needs to be raised regarding the other sleep guidance. “I think we need to do a better job, such as having better media campaigns in addressing the broader recommended practices, beyond ‘back to sleep,” she added.

Though the "Back to Sleep" campaign has been renamed to the "Safe to Sleep" campaign, and now includes the other recommendations, this recent study suggests more needs to be done to inform parents of all the steps they can take to keep their babies safe while sleeping.

90% of mothers said their healthcare providers recommended putting their babies on their back to sleep; 84% were informed their baby should sleep in a crib, bassinet or pack and play; and 85% were made aware of the items which were considered safe to have in baby’s sleeping area. But very few received guidance on placing the crib in the same room as theirs. So, this proves that more awareness through training is required for healthcare providers.

Hirai says, “We want providers to be able to have these conversations with parents. And so that it’s not just about telling them what to do but understanding their actual experience and barriers to these safe sleep activations.” Only when they are convinced, they will be able to provide workable solutions to the parents.

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