Mothers are advised to place a sleeping baby on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend all babies should be placed on their back when sleeping to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
This increased awareness saw SIDS rate fall considerably from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to just 26.8 per 100,000. according to latest statistics published in 2013
Education to care for your newborn is critical for families, and there are numerous guidelines and recommendations published to ensure mothers are prepared for the latest addition to their family.
However, new findings published in the journal Pediatrics found some women were still not being informed by their physicians and other health care professionals of the dangers babies face.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 3,500 cases of sudden unexpected infant deaths are still reported every year in the US. These deaths have no immediately obvious cause, but SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants aged 1 to 12 months.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by researchers from the Boston Medical Center and Boston University, MA, and Yale University in New Haven, CT. To see if the advice was being passed on, a national survey with more than 1,000 new mothers was conducted. Participants were asked about the infant care advice they received from doctors, nurses, family and news media.
The results found roughly 20% of mothers failed to receive any advice from their doctors regarding breastfeeding or how to place their babies to sleep. Also, more than 50% of mothers received no recommendation on where their infants should sleep.
It is recommended babies share a room with adults but not a bed. The latter has been reported to increase the risk of SIDS for babies by fivefold.
In 2011, updated guidelines were published that recommended mothers place their babies to sleep on their back. The CDC echo this advice to all parents and caregivers.
Marian Willinger, PhD, of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says more should be done in the light of the results.
"This survey shows that physicians have an opportunity to provide new mothers with much-needed advice on how to improve infant care and even save infant lives," she adds.
Results also found African-American women, Hispanic women and first-time mothers were more likely to get infant care advice from their physicians than white women and mothers of at least two children.
More than 25% of advice provided not consistent with public recommendationsResearchers explored further and sought to see if the advice provided by health care professionals was consistent with the recommendations published. Concerning a baby's sleeping position, slightly more than 25% of advice provided was not consistent with recommendations for sleep position or location.
Some mothers were advised to place a sleeping infant on their stomach or side; both positions have been linked to an increased risk of SIDS.
Dr. Willinger's view was echoed by the study first author, Dr. Staci R. Eisenberg, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. She says:
"As a physician, these findings made me stop and really think about how we communicate important information to new parents."
Eisenberg called for health care professionals to be "clearer and more specific" when advising new mothers about safe sleep recommendations.