Too Many Infants Still Put in Unsafe Sleeping Conditions: Report
Despite widespread national campaigns designed to promote safe infant sleeping habits, a new report suggests that many parents and caregivers still put babies to sleep in dangerous positions or conditions.
Researchers from the University of Mississippi and investigators from the Mississippi Department of Health analyzed cases of sudden infant death (SIDs) in Mississippi and states across the nation using national reports and other data. The findings were published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
SIDs includes accidental suffocation or strangulation during sleep or in a sleep environment or sudden death for unknown reasons. After intensive national campaigns in the 90s, rates of sudden infant deaths (SIDs) began to drop. However, since then, rates have not improved and have increased in some states.
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The “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched nearly 25 years ago, and great progress was made in reducing SIDs after the launch. Yet since the reduction, rates of SIDs have remained unchanged between 1999 and 2015. However, SIDs rates in Mississippi increased, reaching the highest in 2013.
In this latest study, researchers focused first on 30 cases of unexpected infant deaths in Mississippi in 2016 among previously healthy infants. The study highlighted the approximately 3,500 sleep-related infant deaths which still occur each year in the United States. No other developed country has a higher rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths.
Parent and doctor education programs have continued nationwide, yet SIDs caregivers continue to place infants in unsafe sleeping positions or conditions, the researchers found.
According to their findings, there were repeated reports of infants sleeping in unsafe conditions, especially in bed with parents.
A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued earlier this year indicated only one out of five parents place their baby to sleep in safe sleeping positions recommended by experts.
According to the CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System in 2015, 21% of people from 32 states across the U.S. reported they did not place infants on their back to sleep. This puts them at much higher risk of suffering sudden death.
Additionally, 61% of parents said they share their bed with their infants and 39% said they use soft bedding, like crib bumpers and blankets, in the sleep environments.
Researchers indicate some parents think it may be safer to put an infant to sleep with them in their bed. It is a common misconception. However, they warn it is riskier to put a baby to sleep in bed with an adult. Adults can pose a risk of rolling over on the baby and suffocating the infant.
In other instances, many parents turn to caregivers to watch their infants if they have to work or conduct other obligations. Too often, caregivers will place an infant to sleep on their stomachs or in unsafe sleeping conditions, simply because they have not received the education messages that the parents have received.
“Efforts to ensure that all babies sleep safely run up against widely held traditions and misconceptions, not to mention parental exhaustion,” wrote study authors.
This latest study has led to Mississippi collaborating with three other states to launch safe-to-sleep campaigns in cities with the highest number of sleep-related infant deaths.
SIDs accounts for 43% of full-term infant deaths nationally. However, nearly 90% of all SIDs cases have no conclusive cause.
Experts recommend placing a child to sleep on their back or side, not their stomach. They recommend keeping soft blankets, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals out of the crib to prevent suffocation hazards. Infants should never be placed to sleep in bed with an adult.
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