It sounds like the easiest advice in the world to follow: Don’t put anything in the crib with your baby. And yet a new study finds nine out of 10 parents are still tucking their infants in with loose bedding and objects that can strangle or smother them.
Researchers videotaped 160 Pennsylvania babies ages one, three and six months as they slept at home each night. And even though their guardians, who were mostly well-educated, married and affluent, were aware that they were being watched, 91% of them still placed one-month-olds in cribs with dangerous bumper pads, sleep positioners, pillows and stuffed animals. And 89% of the three-month-olds and 93% of the six-month-olds also slept with unsafe accessories.
And although the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned parents for decades to keep little ones off their sides and stomachs at night to prevent sleep-related deaths — the leading killer of babies — many folks still haven’t gotten that message, either. Some 14%, 18% and 33% of the one, three and six-month-olds, respectively, were not put to bed on their backs.
Kristin Randazzo, a mother of three from Port St. Lucie, Florida, says her pediatrician didn’t tell her to clear the crib or practice “back to sleep” until after her second child. And so her first child slept with a thick blanket and thick crib bumpers. Now her seven-month-old daughter sleeps with a “breathable” mesh bumper and a receiving blanket.
“I’ve since read on the subject and haven’t changed my habits. I’m three kids in and see no problem with having bumpers and blankets,” she said, explaining that she has her kids sleep in the same room with her until six months or so. And they were all breastfed, which lowers their risk of SIDS.
Plus, she was horrified about the time she stripped the crib, but came into the room to find her little one’s legs sticking out of the bars. “I think each parent in general knows their child and their sleeping habits. I want them to be comfortable and safe. Not changing that.”
Dr. Ian M. Paul, the lead author on the report, told the Daily News many parents also buy into misinformation from retailers. “Go into any Babies ‘R’ Us, any of the big box stores selling baby cribs, and you’ll see totally unsafe sleep environments marketed with bumper pads and sleep positioners,” he said. “So parents are getting mixed messages. They think, ‘If Babies ‘R’ Us is selling it, it must be safe.’” Another mom told the Daily News that when she was shopping for her first child, every bedding set came with a coordinating bumper. That’s why Joseph Shamie, president of crib maker Delta Children, says his company displays its baby beds bare. He is also a safe sleep advocate working with First Candle, a SIDS-prevention non-profit, and leads demos on infant sleep safety.
“People are always surprised when they see me throwing out the pillows, the blankets, the stuffed animals, and it has almost zero to do with income or education level,” he said. “But it’s wrong, and we need more educational videos in the hospitals, doctor’s offices and OBGYN offices before the baby is born.”
While sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rates have been dropping off since 1990, the rates of accidental suffocation and strangulation of infants in bed has been increasing since the late 90s, according to the CDC, and hit a peak high in 2014.
The researchers noted that some parents add blankets, pillows and bumpers to cribs because they worry about their babies keeping warm or banging their heads. And many of the babies in the study were moved to another location, such as the parents’ bed, at some point during the night — and the second snooze spot was often even more hazardous than the first had been.
Dr. Paul suggests that pure exhaustion from sleep training a new baby is responsible for many risky midnight sleeping arrangements. “Parents are sleep-deprived, and we don’t all make the best decisions when we’re exhausted,” said Dr. Paul.
But you can’t snooze on the job when it comes to safety. “You want your baby to sleep, but you want him to wake up also,” said Dr. Paul.