The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study of primary infant nighttime caregivers from 1992 – 2010 to help understand infant care practices. The good news from their recently released report is that use of potentially unsafe bedding decreased by more than 30% during that time. The bad news is that nearly 55% of infants in this country still sleep with bedding that increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Since the 1992 recommendation that infants be put to sleep on their backs, deaths from SIDS in the U.S. has decreased by 50%. However, since 2000, infant deaths due to accidental suffocation have nearly doubled.
The NIH’s Safe to Sleep campaign recommends that infants sleep alone, on their backs, on a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet, with no sheets or blankets over them. Soft objects, including toys, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillows, and loose bedding should not be present in an infant’s sleep area. Even with this information, caregivers participating in the survey cited mixed information as a major factor in their choice of bedding for their children. In opposition to NIH recommendations, magazines and advertisements often show infants in cribs with potentially unsafe bedding items. Additionally, family and friends give baby gifts of quilts or bumper pads and the new parent feels obligated to use these items.
For parents who are concerned about keeping their infant warm at night, the Safe to Sleep campaign recommends keeping the room at a comfortable temperature and dressing the infant in an appropriate-weight one-piece sleeper.
Since professional child care providers are well-versed in these recommendations and because these recommendations have been widely publicized, it’s easy to assume that all parents are familiar with and follow the recommendations. Research shows differently. Please make sure that all parents in your program understand these recommendations and why they are so vitally important to follow.