Is soft bedding dangerous for infants?

Washington: New parents take note! Soft bedding is one of the major causes of sleep-related deaths in infants, found a study.

The research, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, reviewed more than 1,800 infant deaths classified as suffocation.

Almost 70 per cent of babies who died from sleep-related suffocation between 2011 and 2014 did so because of soft bedding, the study revealed.

The finding emphasised physicians’ urgent message to new parents that babies should sleep only in cribs or bassinets free of blankets, toys and other potential hazards.

Unintentional suffocation is the number one cause of injury death in babies less than a year old in the United States, with more than 80 per cent of cases occurring in bed.

The study sheds light on how that is happening, revealing that soft bedding is responsible for the vast majority of sleep-related infant deaths (69 per cent).

The second most common cause was due to overlay by another person (19 per cent), with 71 per cent of these occurring while sleeping in the same bed with a parent and/or sibling.
The third most common was “wedging,” in which babies become trapped between two objects, such as a mattress and wall (12 per cent).

“These results are very significant because these deaths – clearly due to suffocation – were all preventable,” said Fern Hauck, a researcher.

“It is also important to note that the causes of suffocation differed by infant age. So, overlaying is a bigger problem for the youngest infants, soft bedding affects infants most commonly under four months of age, and wedging more a problem when infants are older and can move around in bed,” Hauck added.

Sleep-related suffocation and strangulation were responsible for 14 per cent of all sudden, unexpected infant deaths during the period reviewed, the researchers determined.

Death by soft bedding was most likely to occur in an adult bed, with the babies on their backs. Most often, the suffocation or strangulation was caused by a blanket or blankets.

When babies died of an overlay, it was most often the mother who overlaid the infants. In wedging deaths, babies were most likely to become trapped between the mattress and a wall.

“Keeping infants safe is a priority for parents, and these types of suffocation deaths can be prevented by following the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines,” Hauck said.

“These include: placing infants to sleep in a safety-approved bassinet or crib in the caregivers’ room; not placing infants alone or with others on adult beds to sleep; keeping all soft objects out of the infant’s sleep area, including blankets and pillows (wearable blankets are preferred over loose blankets); and placing infants on their back to sleep,” Hauck added.