Even though warnings have been given for years about the dangers of putting a baby to sleep on his or her stomach, many parents continue to disregard the advice. The "Back to Sleep" campaign has been around for decades, yet some parents put their babies to bed in a manner that increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Every year there are approximately 3,500 newborns who die abruptly from no apparent cause, say the CDC. Most of these losses of life are attributed to SIDS, which continues to be an enigma to researchers, according to HealthDay's Amy Norton.
Since the 1990s, obstetricians have encouraged parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs and to remove soft bedding or stuffed animals from the bed, along with encouraging other safety measures. But a study published in Pediatrics in August implies that Americans do not understand the critical nature of the problem,
Senior researcher Dr. Ian Paul, a professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania, says that he and his team videotaped what parents were doing at home. The parents were aware that they were being taped, and the videos showed that almost all parents put their infants to sleep surrounded by pillows, bumper pads, and loose bedding in the crib. From 14% to one-third of newborns were placed on their stomachs or sides in their beds instead of on their backs.
Dr. Paul said there could be several reasons that these actions occurred:
"One could be parents' lack of knowledge," he said. "One could be parents thinking this [SIDS] won't happen to them. And then there's the fact that parents of young infants are exhausted."
Some parents, because they are tired, or because they want their child near them, put their babies in the bed with them, one of the riskiest environments for SIDS.
The study by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the first to use video recordings of parents' behavior rather than self-reported surveys. Babies were recorded for one night at one, three, and six months while asleep in their beds in their homes.
Karina Shedrofsky of USA Today writes that according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, sleep-related deaths are most common in babies between one month and one year of age. These deaths are most often the results of SIDS, accidental strangulation, and accidental suffocation.
Those who participated in the study were predominantly white and well-educated, a demographic that pediatricians think of as normally being at lower risk for these tragedies. Elizabeth Murray, a pediatrician at Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester, who is also an American Academy of Pediatric fellow, said:
"It reminds us that this is something for all people to be aware of regardless of socioeconomic background or education levels, This is a group of people you'd assume have access to resources and knowledge and are still not following the advice."
Another surprising behavior shown on the videos was that babies were often moved during the night, such as being carried to their parents' bed. The new environment most often had more dangers than the original location, writes Cameron Norsworthy for Romper.
Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic, states quite succinctly the course of action necessary:
"Babies need to be placed on the back for every nap and every night until the baby is 1 year old. No blankets, no bumpers, no pillows, no stuffed animals, but always on a firm, authentic baby crib mattress!"