Study: Safe Sleep Practices for Infants Still Misunderstood by Caregivers

The rate of infant deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has decreased dramatically since the Back to Sleep campaign started in the early 90s. Unfortunately, it is still rated as third most common reason of death for infants, with approximately 4 out of every 10,000 live births resulting in cot death. A recent study, published in the Journal of Perinatology, suggests part of the lingering problem may be due to some misconceptions regarding safe sleep practices among caregivers.

newborn sleeping

For the purpose of their study, researchers questioned 121 caregivers, including parents and grandparents of infants born in 2013, as to how strongly the agreed or disagreed with current recommended infant sleep practice. Most agreed that infants should use a safety approved crib and receive routine vaccinations, and that exposure to smoke should be avoided. But when it came to opinions about using of home monitors and pacifiers while avoiding swaddling, many disagreed.

As it turns out, the American Academy of Pediatrics made some revisions to the sleep guidelines for infants about four years ago. Those changes included an encouragement of breastfeeding, the use of pacifiers firm crib mattresses as well as a cautionary warning against swaddling, blankets, pillows, and bed-sharing.

Lead study author, Dr. Sarah Varghese, says she believes there is a possibility that parents and caregivers are experiencing difficulty when it comes to keeping up with recommendations, especially when there is advice coming from several different directions, like grandparents, friends, and even healthcare professionals. In fact, the study did reveal that it’s not just parents failing to follow safety practices; there are still some maternity nurses encouraging things like swaddling and discouraging the use of pacifiers.

“There is a certain power surrounding ‘traditional’ knowledge,” Varghese, now at the Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said in an email to Fox News. “Both parents and healthcare professionals need to stay up-to-date on recommendations.”

Healthcare professionals may also want to consider looking at other methods when it comes to teaching parents and caregivers the appropriate practices for healthy infant sleep; the study found that only 61 percent of participants recalled being taught about safe sleep by a healthcare provider.

This is especially concerning since, for the most part, healthcare professionals have the most up-to-date information—information like how pacifiers may actually reduce the risk of SIDS, and how swaddling, once common practice, is no longer recommended because the blanket can become lose and hinder breathing.

Of course, there are some limitations to the study; it was limited only to English-speaking participants and included mostly white caregivers, which could heavily impact the findings. However, this study does give us a better look at maybe where we could help parents and caregivers when it comes to infant sleep safety.

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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