Researchers at Children’s National find misperceptions about safe sleep practices
Washington, DC—Researchers at Children’s National Medical Center have found that many African-American parents use soft bedding for their infants, despite evidence showing that it should be avoided to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The study was led by Rachel Moon, MD, a pediatrician and SIDS researcher at Children’s National, and appears in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
Through focus groups with mothers, the researchers found that there was often a misunderstanding about the meaning of a “firm” sleep surface, as well as a concern about comfort. Parents reported putting pillows and soft items underneath sheets, thinking that a taut sheet made the surface firm and safe. Soft bedding, like blankets, bumpers, and pillows were also seen as a way to provide comfort and safety to infants. The findings were consistent regardless of families’ socioeconomic status.
“The study demonstrates that the meaning of firm sleep surface is often misinterpreted and confusing,” said Dr. Moon. “As healthcare providers, we have to be proactive in talking about an infant’s sleep environments so that parents have a clear understanding about the safest environment for their babies.”
To reduce the risk of SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep on their backs, on a firm sleep surface (like a crib), separate from their parents, and that the crib be free of any blankets, toys or other items.
“It’s important for parents to understand that soft is not safe, when we’re talking about baby’s sleep,” said Dr. Moon. “The only thing that should be in the crib is the baby.”
This is the first time a study has examined beliefs and practices about soft bedding in a specific population. Dr. Moon suggests further studies need to be done to examine the beliefs and practices among other segments of the population.
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