Soft Bedding Risks SIDS In Babies, But Most American Parents Still Use It

A startling new study released Monday found that a majority of American parents use soft bedding for their infants, even though those products carry a risk of causing sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, the study, which was published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, concluded that more than half of parents used soft blankets and pillows for their young children. Health experts have issued warnings against those materials over the last decade, because they are extremely dangerous to infants.

The researchers analyzed the results of the National Infant Sleep Position telephone survey, conducted annually between 1993 and 2010. Although the number of American parents using soft bedding has declined from 85 percent to 55 percent over those 17 years, a majority of that decline took place before 2000. As such, 55 percent of parents is a rather high number, the researchers said.

Of the nearly 20,000 parents surveyed, teen mothers were the most likely to use soft bedding for their infants — in fact, 80 percent of teen mothers used blankets, pillows and the like. The researchers also found that roughly 70 percent of the parents who used soft bedding for their infants were either sharing a bed with them, or placed them on another shared sleeping surface. Most parents used thick blankets or quilts for their young children.

The researchers found these numbers perplexing, though maybe not entirely unbelievable. Peter Blair, a medical statistics researcher in infant and child health at the University of Bristol in England, told HealthDay the high use of soft bedding may have something to do with consumers and the power of advertising:

Perhaps one of the reasons this problem still persists is that the SIDS risk reduction campaign has less money to spend advising against these items than advertising industries have promoting them.
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Although not very common, SIDS is still the leading cause of death for infants under 12 months of age. According to the CDC, 4,000 babies die of sudden unexpected, sleep-related infant death each year, with 56 percent dying of SIDS and 18 percent of suffocating or strangulating in bed. The American SIDS Institute adds that SIDS is typically classified as a natural death, while suffocation in bed is accidental. However, researchers agree both can be avoided.

Carrie Shapiro-Mendoza, a senior scientist in the Maternal and Infant Health Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of the new study, said in a statement:

Soft bedding has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS. Soft objects and loose bedding — such as thick blankets, quilts and pillows — can obstruct an infant's airway and impose suffocation risk. ... Babies should sleep on a firm, safety-approved mattress with a fitted sheet, without any other bedding.

To further reduce the risk of SISDs, the American SIDS Institute warns parents against sharing a bed, couch or chair with their infants and placing their infants on their sides or stomachs.

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