Far too many parents nationwide fail to follow safe sleep practices for their infants, placing the babies at risk of injury and sudden death, according to the findings a new study.
Federal researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that roughly one out of five parents place their baby to sleep on their stomach or side, both of which safety experts say should be avoided. The findings were published in the January 9, 2018, issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
CDC researchers analyzed data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) including information on infant sleep practices from 2009 to 2015. PRAMS is a state-specific surveillance system that monitors self-reported behavior and experiences before, during, and after pregnancy.
Despite improvements in sleep-related infant deaths since the 1990s, more than 3,500 infant sleep-related deaths still occur each year in the U.S, including those from sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation.
The new data indicates 21% of parents placed their infant on their side or belly to sleep. That is a decrease from the 27% in 2009, but that rate varies depending on the state. For instance, 12% of parents practice unsafe sleeping habits in Wisconsin, but in Louisiana, 34% put their infants to sleep on their side or belly.
In addition to placing infants on their side or stomach, unsafe sleeping practices included sharing beds with adults or older siblings, using soft bedding, like blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, or stuffed animals.
According to this study, 61% of people from 14 states also said they shared a bed with their infant. Nearly 40% from 13 states and New York City said they used soft bedding, especially bumper pads and thick blankets.
The FDA issued a safety alert last year, warning parents not to use sleep positioners because they increase the risk of sleep-related infant deaths. These products also pose a risk of suffocation.
Another study published last year highlighted the risk of infant deaths related to air mattresses. More than 100 infant air mattress deaths occurred across the U.S. Even when the mattress was fully inflated it still poses a risk of suffocation for infants sleeping on the inflatable beds.
According to the CDC and other experts, parents should follow these sleeping practices to keep their infants safe:
- Always place infants on their back to sleep, including during naps.
- Use firm sleep surfaces, like safety approved mattresses and cribs.
- Keep soft objects, like loose bedding, crib bumpers, pillows, and stuffed animals out of a baby’s sleep area.
- Never share the same bed with an infant.
“Improved implementation of the safe sleep practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics could help reduce sleep-related infant mortality,” CDC officials stated. “Evidence-based interventions could increase use of safe sleep practices, particularly within populations whose infants might be at higher risk for sleep-related deaths.”