Infant sleep positions prompt new guidelines

Since 1994, that’s been the dominant message of national campaigns aimed at protecting babies younger than one from dying suddenly in their sleep.

Since 1994, that’s been the dominant message of national campaigns aimed at protecting babies younger than one from dying suddenly in their sleep.

Yet for nearly a decade, most infant-safety advocates have realized that even though “back to sleep” reduced the SIDS rate by up to 50 per cent, it isn’t enough to prevent the deaths of some 4,000 babies each year.

Last week, the U.S. pediatricians formally updated guidelines for infant sleep safety and SIDS risk reduction to reflect evolving understanding that many factors beyond facedown sleeping contribute to baby deaths.

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically calls for expanding the educational campaign aimed at parents and caregivers “to include a major focus on the safe sleep environment and ways to reduce the risks of all sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS, suffocation and other accidental deaths.”

The recommendations particularly discourage adults sharing a bed with an infant, noting no studies have shown such behavior offers any protection from SIDS or suffocation.

An earlier version of the guidelines, issued in 2005, had said bed sharing was not recommended, and “may” be dangerous, but took no stronger stand out of concern that it might impede breastfeeding.

The new guidelines continue to advocate breastfeeding and suggest that parents share a room with their baby, but not a bed. They also advise against using bumper pads around the edge of a crib, which increase the risk of suffocation.

And they urge parents to immunize their infants on schedule. While some SIDS parents have pointed to shots as a possible cause of their baby’s death, research indicates infants who are properly immunized are 50 per cent less likely to die than those who are not.

“As a health-care community, we need to do a better job translating what the research identifies as ‘best practice’ into the day-to-day practice of caring for infants both in the hospital and at home,” said Dr. Rachel Moon, a veteran infant safety researcher at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington who heads the AAP’s SIDS Task Force and was the lead author of the new guidelines.

“Our goal is to ultimately eliminate these deaths completely,” Moon said.

Most researchers believe that all babies risk suffocation when sharing a bed with someone else or sleeping on soft surfaces or with heavy covers or pillows, but that some infants may also have brain or heart anomalies making them particularly likely to die if their breathing is challenged or they overheat.

Evidence confirming that most deaths take place in dangerous sleeping environments has been gradually accumulating, slowed by inadequate investigations and a diagnostic bias toward default diagnosis of SIDS in many parts of the country, a problem highlighted by a Scripps Howard investigation five years ago.

A pilot program run through the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, under way for several years, is using child death review committee records and other data from seven states to start a registry of infant deaths to better spot risk patterns It should yield some findings soon.

Analysis of more than 6,000 infant death investigations done several years ago by the National Center for Child Death Review showed that 43 per cent of the babies were sleeping in an adult bed, only 17 per cent were in a crib and 62 per cent were on an unsafe sleep surface.

A number of small studies in recent years, including one presented at the AAP national meeting in Boston, have revealed that unsafe sleep conditions, including co-sleeping with an adult or another child and sleeping someplace other than a crib, are a factor in 70 to 80 percent of infant deaths.

In a related development, the Food and Drug Administration last week issued a special warning to parents against using baby monitors, infant positioners, crib tents or other devices marketed to prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS. The AAP guidelines also warn against their use.

FDA has never approved any medical device for that purpose and is warning manufacturers to stop making such claims.

“These products are absolutely not necessary and they can be very dangerous,” said Dr. Susan Cummins, chief pediatric medical officer for the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The FDA has reports of 13 infant deaths associated with the use of sleep positioners — slings or pillows that are supposed to keep babies on their backs. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has additional reports of babies found in hazardous positions after being placed in a positioner.

Lee Bowen is a health and science writer for Scripps Howard News Service.Contact Bowman at BowmanL@shns.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

A recent investigation by the RCMP Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit led to the arrests of 24 people. (Contributed photo)
24 people arrested following RCMP investigation in central Alberta

Twenty-four people are facing a combined 235 charges following an investigation by… Continue reading

Photo from Town of Sylvan Lake Facebook page
Sylvan Lake communities band together on development plan

Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan expected to be approved next spring

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, left, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo).
New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

Quentin Lee Strawberry
Man accused in 2019 Red Deer murder will stay behind bars

Quentin Strawberry going to trial next year on second-degree murder charge

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

FILE - In this March 26, 2006 file photo, former soccer player Diego Maradona smokes a cigar as he watches Argentina's first division soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

In this July 1, 2020, photo, Salt Lake Tribune data columnist and Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen poses for a photo. Larsen is a sports writer, but with much of that world sidelined during the pandemic he's been digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications. So when he found himself with a cache of spare change, partially from his childhood piggy bank, he knew plenty of people could use it. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a view of a 'Matterhorn-Express' gondola lift in front of Matterhorn mountain in the Zermatt ski resort, in Zermatt, Switzerland. Restrictions to slow the curve of coronavirus infections have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)
As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015 file photo, actor John Boyega, right, pose with Star Wars characters during the Japan Premiere of their latest film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Tokyo. Boyega stars in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” the third film in the director’s anthology of West Indian life in London from the ‘60s through the ’80s. The five-film series will debut Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

The Hockley Motel in Mono, Ont., is shown in this undated handout photo. An Ontario motel that served as a backdrop for the beloved CBC sitcom "Schitt's Creek" is up for sale. The Hockley Motel in Mono, about an hour's drive northwest of Toronto, was listed for $2 million today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Colliers International
Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Most Read