New Study On Infant Death Finds Unsafe Sleep Practices By Relatives, Babysitters, Others

Researchers from the Universtiy of Virginia who are studying Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) found that infants who died under the supervision of people other than their parents were more likely to be placed in unsafe sleep positions and environments not recommended by pediatric health and safety experts.

The results of the study, which were published in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that of the more than 10,000 infant deaths examined, just over 13 percent occurred when a parent was not present.

Among that 13 percent, the study determined that the babies were less likely to be placed on their backs to sleep and more likely to be put down to sleep in an environment with potentially hazardous objects such as blankets or toys. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be placed on their back to sleep in a crib with no bedding, toys, or sleep bumpers.

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]

The Study’s Takeaways

“If someone else — a babysitter, relative, or friend — is taking care of your baby, please make sure that they know to place your baby on the back in a crib and without any bedding,” said Dr. Rachel Moon of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the UVA Children’s Hospital and UVA’s Child Health Research Center in a release from the University.

Other key findings from the review:

  • Nearly 73 percent of licensed childcare providers placed the babies in a crib or bassinet, and 54.1 percent of childcare providers put them in the recommended supine position (on the back). Researchers noted that in past studies, many licensed childcare providers placed infants on their stomachs, but that same group was now, “the most likely non-parental supervisor to place babies in the recommended sleep position and in cribs.”
  • Data found that 49.1 percent of babysitters, 29.4 percent of relatives, and 27.1 percent of friends had placed the infants in a recommended crib or bassinet.
  • Only 38.4 percent of relatives, 38.6 percent of friends, and 37.8 percent of babysitters had placed infants on their back to sleep.
  • In the cases where deaths occurred under the supervision of friends and relatives, these deaths were most likely to occur while the babies were held or placed on an adult bed.

“A lot of relatives and friends may not be aware that babies are safest on their backs,” said researcher Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, of Children’s Mercy Kansas City, in the release. “They may have raised children before we knew that this was safest.”

Reducing The Risk Of SIDS

SIDS (which stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a term used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than one year old in which the cause was not obvious before an investigation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says approximately 3,500 babies die in the U.S. unexpectedly each year.

Parents and caregivers can help reduce the risk of SIDS by following the safety guidelines and practices recommended by pediatric experts. These guidelines include:

  • Placing your baby on their back for all sleep times (naps and at night).
  • Using a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
  • Having the baby share your room, not your bed. The CDC says your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
  • Keeping soft objects, such as pillows and loose bedding, out of your baby’s sleep area.

RELATED: Crib Mattress Buying Guide: What You Should Know Before Buying

“It’s always best to discuss where and how your baby should sleep,” Moon said. “You can’t make assumptions that the person with whom your baby is staying will know what is safest.”

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]

Featured image: Kazzland Inc/Shutterstock

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Katie Golde

Katie manages the day to day operations of the Mattress Clarity news site and reviews sleep products in addition to writing and editing sleep news.She hails from Austin, where she lives with her growing family. She has a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and has a background in health and science content. Her work can be found in print and online publications like Discover Magazine, USA Today and The Huffington Post.

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