Safe Sleep Practices for Babies Ignored

Placing infants to sleep on their backs reduces SIDS.

Posted: 05/05/2014 01:27 PM EDT

Though decades of research show putting infants to sleep on their backs reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which killed more than 2,000 babies in 2010, many parents aren’t following safe sleep practices.

New research found that nearly 50 percent of infants in this country aren’t being put to sleep on their backs. Two-thirds of babies born at term sleep on their backs, and the rate is even lower among preterm babies. For this study, researchers analyzed nearly 400,000 newborns in 36 states. Wisconsin had the highest rate of safe sleep compliance at 81 percent. Alabama was lowest at 50 percent.

“Given that supine [on the back] sleep positioning significantly reduces an infant’s risk for SIDS, it is worrisome that only two-thirds of full-term infants born in the U.S. are being placed back-to-sleep,” said study author Sunah Hwang, M.D., a neonatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release. “More concerning is that adherence to safe sleep positioning is even lower for preterm infants who are at even greater risk for SIDS compared to term infants.”

This is particularly troubling for black women, who have double the rates of prematurity.

Though experts don’t know exactly why SIDS strikes, they do know the syndrome kills more infants aged 1 year or younger than any other cause. “The Back-to-Sleep campaign reduced the rate of SIDS by 50 percent in the 1990s,” Dr. Hwang said. “Since 2001, this rate has remained stagnant.”

A second study surveying 1,030 moms in the U.S. found that a quarter of moms of color are endangering their newborns at bedtime. Twenty-two percent of black mothers put their babies to sleep on their stomachs (10 percent of white moms and 7 percent of Hispanic moms did this). And 28 percent of Hispanic moms share beds with their infants, a practice 18 percent of blacks and 14 percent of whites did.

Read more about SIDS at BlackHealthMatters.Com.

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