Study Shows Safer Sleep for Babies Is on Their Backs
New moms take note: Putting your baby to sleep on their stomach might not be the safest position despite years of being told just the opposite. A new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends infants be placed supine – or on their backs – for sleep. The study claims each year infants die due to unsafe sleep practices.
These facts should awaken any mother to hear that placing them in the supine position for sleep reduces the risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which remains the leading cause of babies dying in the United States. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 6,683 reported SIDS deaths. Since 2005, AAP and the “Safe to Sleep” program have recommended infants be placed exclusively on their backs for sleep to prevent SIDS.
The study surveyed 3,297 mothers, of whom 77.3 percent reported that they don’t always put their babies to sleep on their backs. The bigger question remains: Why are mothers still putting their babies on their bellies at sleep time?
The two main critiques of back sleep were the fear that the baby might choke and that it’s less comfortable than having them sleep on their stomachs. Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, and an official spokesperson for the AAP reassures parents that this is not the case.
“I tell parents that their child has a normal airway and a normal nervous system, and so they have a mechanism to prevent the vomit from going into the lungs,” Brown told NBC News.
What is comfortable to them should be up to the parent according to Dr. Rachel Moon, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C. specializing in SIDS.
“I think parents often forget that they’re the adults of the household and they can actually make decisions if they think they’re right for their children,” Moon told CNN. Moon observed that mothers often consider their social network to be a more trustworthy resource than medical providers. She created this grid of potential influences on parental decision-making with regards to infant sleep practices.
Putting babies to sleep on their stomachs has also been deemed an ethnic practice passed down from grandmothers amongst African-American women, according to Dr. Moon, who has studied SIDS in African-Americans at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
“There’s very much a culture of putting babies on their stomach in an African-American community. There’s a lot more dependence on grandmothers and other senior family members as trusted sources, and lots of times, the information that you get from your family members is more persuasive than what you get from physicians and other sources,” Moon told CNN.
Proper education is at the crux of breaking belly sleeping habits. There is a national collaborative effort underway to develop intervention strategies to modify parental decisions regarding infant sleep practices.
Combining social marketing strategies, the influence of health care professionals, and mobile technology to deliver health messages is a start. With all this in mind mothers might sleep better at night knowing their babies are sleeping safer too.