Parents are getting better about using loose bedding and leaving soft objects in their baby’s bed, but about half of U.S. infants are still sleeping with potentially hazardous bedding according to a new study.
Blankets, quilts and pillows can obstruct an infant’s airway and pose a suffocation risk according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This type of bedding is a recognized risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The researchers investigated bedding use from 1993 to 2010 from the National Infant Sleep Position study.
They found that from 1993 to 2010, bedding use declined, but remained a common practice. The rate of bedding use averaged nearly 86 percent in 1993-1995, and declined to 55 percent in 2008-2010. Prevalence was highest for infants of teen mothers (83.5 percent) and lowest for infants born at term (55.6 percent). Researchers also found that bedding use was highest among infants who were sleeping in adult beds, placed to sleep on their sides, or shared a sleep surface.
AAP recommends that the best place for a baby to sleep is in the same room as his or her parents and always in a crib, not in the same bed. The crib should be free from toys, soft bedding, blankets, and pillows.
Other safe sleep practices are:
• Place your baby on a firm mattress, covered by a fitted sheet that meets current safety standards. For more about crib safety standards, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.
• Place the crib in an area that is always smoke-free.
• Don’t place babies to sleep on adult beds, chairs, sofas, waterbeds, pillows, or cushions.
• Toys and other soft bedding, including fluffy blankets, comforters, pillows, stuffed animals, bumper pads, and wedges should not be placed in the crib with the baby. Loose bedding, such as sheets and blankets, should not be used as these items can impair the infant’s ability to breathe if they are close to his face. Sleep clothing, such as sleepers, sleep sacks, and wearable blankets are better alternatives to blankets.
• Place babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. Side sleeping is not as safe as back sleeping and is not advised. Babies sleep comfortably on their backs, and no special equipment or extra money is needed.
• “Tummy time” is playtime when infants are awake and placed on their tummies while someone is watching them. Have tummy time to allow babies to develop normally.
• Remove mobiles when your baby is able to sit up.
Study authors conclude that while the numbers have improved significantly, infants are still being put to bed in an unsafe sleeping environment; about half still sleep with blankets, quilts, pillows, and other hazardous items.
It’s not unusual that many parents may not be aware of the dangers of blankets, pillows and quilts in a baby’s bed. Lots of people were raised with all these items in the bed, but that was also before scientists began to understand SIDS better and the possible causes. True, many babies did fine before these alerts and safety suggestions became more popular but a lot of children also died – we just didn’t know why. Parents today are able to access better infant safety information than their own parents.
The study, “Trends in Infant Bedding Use: National Infant Sleep Position Study 1993-2010” was published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.