Although the desire to fill a baby’s crib with soft, plush toys and blankets is common among all people, the results of a new study show that African-American parents do so more often, a behavior that possibly increases the risk of losing a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Researchers at Children’s National Medical Center, led by pediatrician and SIDS researcher Rachel Moon, M.D., found that African-American parents were more likely to use soft bedding for infants. Soft bedding, such as blankets, quilts, and comforters, have been linked to SIDS as infants have been found dead because soft bedding covered their faces, noses and mouths while sleeping.
According to Children’s National Medical Center, African-American babies are 2–3 times more likely to die from SIDS than caucasian babies.
Focus groups for the study revealed that parents often put 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.
“It’s important for parents to understand that soft is not safe, when we’re talking about baby’s sleep,” said Moon. “The only thing that should be in the crib is the baby.” She urged health care providers to be vigilant in instructing new parents on safe bedding alternatives.
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.
Here is what the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends you do when putting infants to sleep:
—Place baby on his/her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
—Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillow-like stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.
—Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
—If using a blanket, put baby with feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby's chest.
—Make sure your baby's head remains uncovered during sleep.
—Do not place baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.
(Photo: NNS/Kalamazoo Gazette/Landov)