It Takes a Village to Help Babies Sleep Safely

TUESDAY April 6, 2010 -- A new study finds that mothers who receive consistent advice from doctors, nurses and others are more likely to place infants on their backs when they sleep, the recommended position for reducing the risk of SIDS.

U.S. researchers interviewed 2,299 predominately black mothers of infants younger than 8 months to find out what advice the mothers had received about infant sleep position and their personal beliefs about the topic.

The study found that 1,408 mothers (61 percent) usually placed their infants on their backs to sleep, 489 (21 percent) usually placed their infants on their sides, 390 (17 percent) usually placed them on their stomachs, and 12 (0.5 percent) used another sleep position for their infants.

Most mothers said they received no advice from family, friends or the media about infant sleep position, and reported that doctors only advised them to use put their babies to sleep on their backs 56 percent of the time. Women who received higher or "positive" advice scores -- that is, correct advice from multiple sources -- were more likely to place their infants on their backs to sleep.

"For example, of the 559 mothers who had a negative advice score, 36 percent [202 mothers] placed their infants supine [on their backs], whereas of the 439 mothers with an extremely positive advice score, 85 percent (373 mothers) usually placed their infant supine to sleep," wrote Dr. Isabelle Von Kohorn, of Yale University, and colleagues.

The researchers also found that 1,443 mothers (63 percent) believed their infants were most comfortable in a position other than on their backs, and 1,280 (56 percent) believed their infants were more likely to choke if they slept on their backs. Mothers who held either of these beliefs were less likely to place their infants in the supine sleep position.

"Increasing advice for exclusively supine sleep, especially through the media, and addressing mothers' concerns about infant comfort and choking are critical to getting more infants on their backs to sleep," the researchers wrote.

The study appears in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about safe sleep for babies.

Posted: April 2010


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