A new study from the US has revealed that despite safe sleep guidelines, many parents are still putting their babies to bed with bumper pads, pillows and stuffed animals, sleep positioners and other items that could pose a risk.
Researchers examined videos that had been recorded in the homes of 160 children, finding that a whopping 91 per cent of four-week-old babies had been placed in cots with unsafe items, including loose bedding, bumper pads, pillows/cushions, stuffed toys, and sleep positioners.
They also discovered that 14 per cent of the infants studied had been placed on their sides or stomachs, rather than on their backs, which is the safer position.
Dr Ian M. Paul, chief of the division of general paediatrics at the Penn State College of Medicine, says that all these practices increase the risk of sleep-related infant death. And although cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have declined around the world, rates for accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed have increased.
In the US, this rate peaked at 21.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2014, TODAY Parents reported.
Parents ignore the warnings about unsafe bedding for a variety of reasons, but Dr Paul says they "just don't think it's going to happen to them, even though 3500 infants die each year" as a result of the parents' choices.
Another factor is the way bedding is marketed to parents. "They think that if these products are being sold, they are safe," Dr Paul explained.
Click on the image below to find the common unsafe habits.
Dr Paul notes that although babies are not very mobile, they do move around during the night.
"And while the parents put a blanket on so it's not covering the baby's face, babies can wiggle, and as they wiggle, the blanket will move, too," he explains.
He advises that the baby's bed "should contain nothing but the baby and what the baby is wearing".
The safe sleep guidelines need to be observed until the baby is at least a year old, says Dr Paul.
Dr Raymond Pitetti, associate chief of the emergency department of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, told TODAY that he was shocked to learn that nine out of 10 parents were putting items in their one-month-old infants' cots.
"This tells me we still have a long way to go in terms of educating parents and getting them to understand the risks," he says.
Dr Pitetti says that better education is needed for parents. "For a long time the focus was on 'Back to Sleep.' That was a great slogan. It really put the emphasis on putting babies on their backs to sleep, but it doesn't include the other factors," he says.
"Maybe we have to come up with a new slogan."