Losing an infant to a suffocation accident is a tragedy that everyone wants to help parents avoid. To that end, pediatricians and health experts recommend that parents minimize the risk of harm by putting their infants to sleep without blankets, crib bumpers, pillows or other loose objects in the crib.
Unfortunately, despite this guidance it is still common to see advertising and social media images that depict infants sleeping with these risky items in their bed. Typically these images are used by advertisers or others who do not realize that the conditions shown could be harmful. To raise awareness of safe sleep recommendations and reduce the use of images that accidentally reinforce unsafe sleep conditions, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is encouraging parents, retailers and advertisers to use social media to post and share pictures of babies sleeping safely with #SafeNapSnap during Safe Sleep Week, Nov. 4 through 10.
In addition, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed Nov. 4 through 10 Safe Sleep Week and the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge was lit pink and blue on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Minnesota data show that unsafe sleep environments account for nearly all unexpected infant deaths in Minnesota, with about 50 infants dying each year. MDH analysis showed several notable risk factors involved in the 53 sleep-related infant deaths reported in Minnesota in 2015. Among the findings:
• 93 percent had loose objects around them, such as pillows or blankets, or were not placed on a firm surface, such as a crib mattress, to sleep.
• 49 percent of the babies were sharing a sleep surface, such as a bed, sofa or recliner, with another person.
• 27 percent were in an unsafe sleep position, such as being placed on their side or belly rather than on their back.
A study conducted by Children’s National Medical Center (Safe Sleep Guideline Adherence in Nationwide Marketing of Infant Cribs and Products) found that in magazines targeting women of childbearing age, more than one-third of the images showed babies in unsafe sleep positions and more than two-thirds showed babies in unsafe sleep environments. In addition, nine percent of new mothers reported that their health care providers did not talk to them about how to lay their babies down to sleep, according to the Minnesota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data from 2012-2014.
In response to these statistics, infant safe sleep organizations recommend that advertisers create, select and use only images that depict babies who appear to be 18 months of age or younger in safe-sleep positions and safe-sleep environments.
Here are some of the photo dos and don’ts promoted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies:
• DO show babies sleeping on their backs.
• DO show babies sleeping in a crib that meets current safety standards.
• DO demonstrate room sharing, but not bed sharing, for babies under six months old.
• DO show sleeping babies dressed in only a wearable blanket or other sleeper to keep them warm.
• DO when possible show photos demonstrating room sharing for babies under six months of age; showing the baby’s separate, safe sleep area in the room with, or alongside, the adult bed.
• DON’T show babies sleeping with an adult or on an adult bed, sofa, chair or other unsafe place.
• DON’T show babies sleeping in car seats, infant carriers, swings, slings or similar products. There are many reports of babies dying while sleeping in these devices.
• DON’T show photos showing soft or loose bedding items such as blankets, quilts, soft or pillow-like bumpers, pillows or stuffed animals in the baby’s sleep space.
Ideally, photos should support the ABCs of safe sleep:
• ALONE: Infants should always sleep or nap alone.
• BACK: Always put a baby on their back to sleep or nap.
• CRIB: Babies should always sleep or nap in their own safety-approved crib or play yard.
Instead of using blankets to keep infants warm, parents are urged to dress babies in pajamas or other clothing appropriate for the temperature. As always, parents should talk with a doctor or nurse if they have questions or concerns.
Other risks include exposure to cigarette smoke and co-sleeping. It is important for babies to sleep separately from other sleeping children and adults to avoid the risk of suffocation. One positive alternative is co-rooming, where the baby sleeps in their own safe crib, bassinette or play yard, but is still nearby for breastfeeding and night-time diaper changes. A safe sleeping environment is just as important during naptime.