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Healthy Kids: Study of moms finds less than half put babies to sleep correctly

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A concerning study recently published in the medical journal Pediatrics finds that most moms - still - are not putting their babies to sleep on their backs on a regular basis.

Pediatricians and the Safe to Sleep campaign have been urging parents and caregivers to use this position since 1994. Placing babies on their backs before they go to sleep reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as well as other sleep-related infant deaths like suffocation.

“The vast majority of parents are aware of the back-sleeping position recommendation, but don’t always follow it,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates.

The study surveyed nearly 3,300 moms. Of those questioned, 77 percent said they usually put their babies to sleep on their backs, but only 44 percent said they do it every time. Some moms said they don’t follow the guidelines because of advice they’ve received from friends and family, or simply because they say their baby sleeps better on their stomach.

“Most babies do sleep deeper on their stomach, but unfortunately, we think SIDS is at least partly due to a disorder of very deep sleep,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “So, when kids fall deeply asleep on their stomachs, they’re at higher risk of SIDS happening than if they are on their back.”

“Parents are trying to do what’s best for their baby,” says registered nurse Bonnie Root. “Often, they don’t even know what the recommendations are, or they’ve been told by friends and family members ‘This is what I used; my baby slept so much better in it.’ And they find their baby does, too, but it’s not a safe sleep environment.”

Bonnie discusses sleep safety with parents during Eugene Pediatrics’ newborn house calls. She says when it comes to sleep, a baby should always be on his or her back on a flat surface.

“I always say, ‘Boring is best. Simple is safest.’ No pillows, no crib bumpers, no extra blankets, no stuffed animals, no mobiles. Nothing except for a nice, firm mattress with a fitted sheet.”

In addition to always putting baby to sleep on his or her back, do not allow your baby to sleep for long periods in anything that props them up, like a swing or a car seat. When babies fall asleep upright, their chins drop to their chest, which reduces the amount of oxygen the baby is receiving. On long car trips, it’s recommended that you stop every couple of hours and take your baby out of his or her seat.

If you have questions about sleep safety, talk with your health care provider.

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