Despite the fact that we hear lots about safe sleeping for babies, a new study from America suggests many parents still don't stick to the guidelines designed to protect children from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).


The report, released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, saw researchers film 160 babies (aged at 1, 3 and 6 months) sleeping, rather than relying on what their parents said they did.

They found the biggest mistakes made over 3 different filming times were:

  • 87-93% put potentially hazardous items on the baby's sleep surface
  • 14-33% put their baby in a non-recommended position (eg not on their back)
  • 10-21% put their baby on a non-recommended sleep surface

By far the biggest error was putting items into a baby's cot - including loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillow positioners and cot bumpers - all of which can lead to a risk of smothering your baby or reduce oxygen to their lungs.

The study also revealed that often parents started the night by ensuring their babies were in a safe sleeping environment, but by the middle of the night they had moved them to a riskier one - ie, into their own beds.

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Speaking about the advice that’s already out there on safe sleeping, Ian Paul, author of the report and Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, says:

“Perhaps we have to make it even simpler. We need to be extremely clear and unambiguous in our advice and we need to make sure we model safe sleep environment when babies are in the hospital.”

Elizabeth Murray, a pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester, has advised parents that when it comes to you baby’s bedtime, put simply, "boring is best".

“The best thing you can do to show your baby you love them is to put the baby alone, and on its back," she advised.

What about cot cushions?

A different study - carried out by the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia, and cited in the Daily Mail, has warned that parents might be putting their babies at risk by purchasing cot positioning cushions - designed to prevent "flat head" syndrome.

Professor Alexandra Martiniuk, who conducted a study among 100 parents, revealed that parents were very keen to prevent their baby getting flat head syndrome but that this could be putting their baby at risk.

"Flat head is concerning for parents because it affects how their child looks," she said.

"Parents told us because they could see their baby getting a flat head they felt it was a more real threat than cot death.

"So when they noticed a flat spot developing they stopped following SIDS safe sleeping guidelines."

Particularly frustrating when it comes to these pillows is that there's no clear evidence that they work.

The findings of the Australian study have been echoed here in the UK, with Catherine March of the Lullaby Trust advising:

"We are concerned to see an increase in the use of pillows for babies, as pillow use in under-ones significantly increases the risk of SIDS.

"Although we cannot comment on the safety of individual products, our guidance, which is informed and supported by a strong evidence base, recommends that babies are put to sleep on their back, on a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a separate cot or Moses basket.

"A clear cot is a safer cot - items such as loose bedding, pillows, rolled up towels or soft toys can cover the baby’s mouth, cause overheating and increase the risk of SIDS."

Photos: Library image (top), Amazon

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Tara BreathnachContent Editor and Social Media Producer

Tara is mum to 1 daughter, Bodhi Rae, and has worked as Content Editor and Social Media Producer at MadeForMums since 2015