Since 1994, the Safe to Sleep campaign has been educating American parents about the right way to put their infants to sleep so as to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — namely on their backs, atop a mattress fitted with a tight sheet and no blankets or pillows. But according to a new study, only 44.7 percent of mothers in the United States reported exclusively putting their babies to sleep on their backs.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed 3,297 mothers. Most — 77.3 percent — said that they “usually” put their baby to sleep on his or her back, but did not do so exclusively. African-American mothers were most likely to put their babies to bed on their stomachs. Often, women who opted against putting their babies to sleep on their backs believed that this position could lead to choking, or cause discomfort.
But the CDC has said that back-sleeping is the safest option for babies. While the exact cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is not known, placing babies on their backs can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.
Dr. Robin Jacobson, a pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health, told CNN that misconceptions about safe sleeping for babies can stem from lack of education, or cultural and familial beliefs.
“Grandmothers and aunts and everybody have told (mothers), if they have babies sleep on their bellies, they’re more comfortable; they’re not going to choke,” she said. “And because of that, a new mom who doesn’t really have a lot of information is using information from everybody else in their life.”
Consequently, an editorial accompanying the study recommends that media and advertisers ramp up their efforts to display images of safe sleeping practices. It also notes that doctors should be consistently counseling parents about the best way to put their babies to sleep safely.
Read the full story at CNN.