According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, many websites have inaccurate information about sleep safety for babies. Inaccurate information was defined as information that did not meet American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. The AAP and the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) have a number of sleep recommendations to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, parents do not always know about the recommendations or may dismiss them as unimportant if they hear mixed messages about a recommendation. Unfortunately, SIDS continues to be the leading cause of death in children under the age of one year.
The researchers performed a number of Google searches for terms such as "infant sleep position," "pacifier sleeping," "infant co-sleeping," "SIDS products" and "safe infant bedding." They then analyzed the first 100 search results for each term to see if they met the current AAP recommendations.
Key findings of the study included:
- Over one-quarter (28.1%) of search results led to sites with inaccurate information.
- Of the relevant websites, only 60.8% provided accurate information about sleep safety for babies.
- Government, educational and establishment websites provided the most accurate information.
- Blogs and discussion forums had the most inaccurate information.
Not surprisingly, searches for controversial topics such as co-sleeping (or bed-sharing) were most likely to yield results with inaccurate information. Co-sleeping is also linked to increased risk of SIDS, suffocation, and injury.
Limitations to the study
The researchers used technical language in their search terms. As parents are more likely to search for "baby” than "infant ", the study may not have accurately captured the information parents will actually see when turning to the Internet for answers.
Learn to tell good websites from bad
Keep in mind that the Internet has a lot of information that is outdated or just plain wrong. As a parent, you need to evaluate health information on the Internet, or anywhere else, with a skeptical and informed eye.
Safe sleep for babies: just the facts
Recommendations for safe sleep for babies include:
- Put your baby to sleep on their back, not their side or tummy.
- Avoid soft mattresses, bedding, and pillows. Do not put large stuffed toys, pillows, bumper pads, or thick comforters into your baby's crib.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not expose your baby to second-hand smoke after they are born because it increases the risk of SIDS.
- Avoid overbundling and overheating your baby. Babies should be dressed in the same number of layers you would wear plus one extra layer for the first few months of life. Babies should not be wrapped up in multiple blankets and should not be hot to the touch.
- Keep your baby in your room, but not in the same bed. The safest place for a baby to sleep is alone in a crib. The crib should be in the same room as the parents for the first six months of life.
- Do not allow your baby to sleep in a stroller, swing, bouncer or car seat for extended periods of time.
- Make sure all nursery equipment, including your baby's crib, is in good condition and meets current safety standards.
- Place your baby's crib away from blinds or curtains. Your baby can become entangled in the cords.
- Do not leave anything tied around your baby’s neck, for example a bib or a necklace.
- Do not rely on baby monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Do not use products such as wedges, positioners, special mattresses, and specialized sleep surfaces. These products do not reduce the risk of SIDS and may actually increase the risk of suffocation.
- Pacifiers at nap time and bedtime have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you are breastfeeding your baby, wait 3 to 4 weeks until breastfeeding has been well established before offering a pacifier.
For further reading
HealthyChildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics): Reduce the Risk of SIDS
Caring for Kids (Canadian Paediatric Society): Safe Sleep for Babies