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Many infants at risk in unsafe sleep settings, poll shows

Most parents are aware of the national Back To Sleep message, but many parents still place infants in unsafe sleep settings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The nearly two-decades long national "back to sleep" campaign that promotes infant safe sleep is credited with reducing the rate of sudden infant death syndrome in the United States.

However, the rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) due to unsafe sleep habits has continued to climb. SUIDs currently accounts for 12 infant deaths per day in the United States.

In May 2011, the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents of children up to 3 years old about the sleep settings and positions for their children during infancy and their beliefs about safe sleep positions for infants.

The study found that 89 percent of parents believe that placing an infant on his back in a crib is a safe sleep position. That’s the recommended position. However, 40 percent of parents believe that it is safe for an infant to sleep in the same bed as another person, which is not recommended. A similar proportion of parents – 40 percent - report that they “often” or “sometimes” have fallen asleep with their infants.

“The recent rise in SUIDs led us to ask parents about their beliefs and practices, including habits such as falling asleep with infants and sharing the same bed,” says Lisa Markman, M.D., Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Child Protection Team at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Our results indicate that large subgroups of parents are placing infants in sleep positions that put them at risk for suffocation or smothering.”

“The safe sleep message is especially important during the upcoming holiday season because of the potential for travel,” says Bethany Mohr, M.D., Assistant Professor and Medical Director of the Child Protection Team at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Caregivers need to be aware that babies must always sleep in a safe setting. Travel to relatives’ homes and hotels opens up the potential for babies to sleep in unsafe settings and increases the risk of death due to unsafe sleep.”

The fact that so many parents are aware of the "back to sleep" message is a reassuring sign, Markman says.

“The success of the ‘back to sleep’ message is definitely encouraging,”  Markman says. “We know that it is possible to get out messages about safe sleep on a national level. However, 'back to sleep' is not the full message that health care providers must communicate to parents. Parents need to know that sharing the same sleep space and putting soft toys and blankets in cribs also puts infants at risk for suffocation.”

Tips for parents and other family members about infant sleep safety:

  • Babies should always sleep in their own space, in a crib or bassinette with a firm mattress and tight fitting sheet.
  • There should be nothing in a baby’s sleep space, other than the baby with a thin blanket or sleep sack.
  • Caregivers should not fall asleep while holding their babies.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health:

Website: www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mottnpch Twitter: @MottNPCH  

Additional resources include:

 http://www.cdc.gov/sids/SUIDAbout.htm http://www.sidscenter.org/ http://www.firstcandle.org/ http://www.tomorrowschildmi.org/

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health – based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System – is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.

Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc. (KN), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.  The survey was administered in May 2011 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults age 18 or older with children age 0 months to age 3 years (n=458), from the KN standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 54 percent among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 4 to 6 percentage points.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com.

Findings from the U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.

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