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Moms Heed Advice on Baby Sleep Position

The More Moms Hear About Putting Babies on Their Backs, the More Likely They Are to Do So
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 5, 2010 -- The more mothers hear from doctors, family, and the media about putting their babies to sleep on their backs, the more likely they are to follow the potentially lifesaving advice.

In contrast, mothers who don’t hear this advice or think their babies are uncomfortable or more likely to choke when placed to sleep on their backs are less likely to do so, which increases the child’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

That’s according to a new survey of 2,299 predominantly African-American mothers that suggests mothers’ beliefs and the advice they receive about infant sleep positions are more important than racial or ethnic factors in determining who is most likely to follow the current “Back to Sleep” infant sleep position recommendation.

“When accounting for mothers’ beliefs, we do not see a racial or ethnic difference in propensity for supine infant sleep,” write researcher Isabelle Von Kohorn, MD, of Yale University, and colleagues in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. “Increasing advice for exclusively supine sleep, especially through the media, and addressing mothers’ concerns about infant comfort and choking are critical to getting more infants on their back to sleep.”

Put Babies to Sleep on Backs

Researchers say despite the success of the public education campaign to promote “Back to Sleep” practices as a way to lower the risk of SIDS, African-American infants are less likely than white infants to be placed on their backs to sleep. In addition, they say the national rate of supine infant sleeping has reached a plateau with nearly one-fourth of all infants and one-half of African-American infants being placed in other sleeping positions.

Overall, the survey found that 61% of mothers reported usually placing infants on their backs to sleep, 21% usually placed them on their sides, 17% usually placed them on their stomachs, and 0.5% used another sleeping position.

Researchers found that only 36% of mothers who didn’t receive any advice about infant sleep positions said they usually put their babies to sleep on their backs, compared with 85% of those who were advised to by their doctor, the media, or family.

The survey, which was conducted between 2006 and 2008, showed mothers' beliefs about choking and infant comfort also played a role in baby sleep positioning.

For example, most mothers believed their infants were most comfortable in a sleeping position other than on their backs, and 56% believed their infants were more likely to choke on their backs. Mothers who held either of these beliefs were less likely to put their baby to sleep on their back.

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