More Infants Sleeping in Safer Environments

Sudden infant death syndrome risk can be reduced by removing soft objects and loose bedding from sleeping area

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Parents always want the best for their kids. For some, that means making a soft and cozy crib for their infants. But before putting their baby to sleep in a pile of fluffy blankets, parents need to recognize the risks associated with certain types of bedding products.

The use of potentially hazardous soft bedding has declined in recent years. Still, many infants in the US sleep with this type of bedding.

The authors of a new study said parents can take a few measures to make their infants' sleep safer.

"To reduce risk, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that soft objects and loose bedding such as pillows and pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, and sheepskin not be placed in an infant’s sleeping environment," wrote the study authors, led by Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Blankets, quilts, comforters, pillows and pillow-like toys can all potentially block infants' airways. They have also been recognized as risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The authors of this study found that potentially dangerous bedding was used most commonly with infants who were sleeping in adult beds, sleeping on their sides or sharing a sleep surface.

Dr. Shapiro-Mendoza and team reviewed data from the National Infant Sleep Position study, which extended from 1993 to 2010. This study included about 18,900 infants.

Soft bedding use dropped from an average of about 86 percent between 1993 and 1995 to almost 55 percent between 2008 and 2010, these researchers found.

Teen mothers had the highest prevalence of soft bedding use with their infants (83.5 percent). Bedding use was lowest among infants born at term (55.6 percent). "Term" means childbirth at the end of a normal-length pregnancy.

Dr. Shapiro-Mendoza and colleagues noted that bedding was often used among infants who slept in adult beds (71 percent), who shared a sleep surface (70 percent) or who were placed to sleep on their sides (66 percent).

Soft bedding includes items like blankets, quilts, pillows, and other similar materials usually placed under or over an infant.

Rachel Y. Moon, MD, of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC, and Fern R. Hauck, MD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, VA, wrote an editorial about the current study.

Drs. Moon and Hauck stressed that soft bedding has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS. SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than 1.

In 1996, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants sleep in conditions with firm sleep surfaces without soft or loose bedding to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Drs. Moon and Hauck wrote that parents may turn to soft bedding because they believe it provides comfort, warmth and safety. However, these parents can use sleeper clothing instead of blankets to keep their infants warm, the editorial authors noted.

“Discussion of potentially hazardous bedding should be included whenever we talk to parents about the infant’s sleep environment and safe sleep practices,” Drs. Moon and Hauck wrote. “Only then will we be able to achieve improvements in these worrisome trends and further reductions in the incidence of SIDS and suffocation deaths.”

The study was published Dec. 1 in Pediatrics.

The National Institutes of Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 2, 2014
Last Updated:
December 3, 2014