Web information on safe infant sleep often wrong

Reuters, Thursday 16 Aug 2012

Parents who search the Internet for advice on how to put their infants to sleep may often find misinformation, a new study suggests

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other experts have long had recommendations on how to cut the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. They say parents should always put infants on their backs to sleep - in a crib with a firm mattress, with no soft objects around them.

In the U.S., the "Back to Sleep" public education campaign has been credited with cutting SIDS - also known as "crib death" - by more than 50 percent since 1994.

But SIDS still kills about 2,500 babies each year in the U.S., mostly infants who are between two and four months old.

For the new study, researchers wanted to see how often online information on infant sleep jibed with the AAP recommendations.

So they did a Google search using 13 different terms, like "infant sleep position" and "infant sleep surface."

Of the 931 relevant websites that popped up, only 61 percent gave accurate information. 

Government websites did the best job, the researchers say. Of 83 government sites, 72 gave accurate information. Some sites, Moon noted, were not updated often and had outdated information.

Blogs, personal websites and sites that review retail products were among the least reliable sources. Of all relevant blogs, for example, just 31 percent gave accurate information. 


Moon advised steering clear of commercial websites, such as those from retailers selling infant products. She and her colleagues found 185 relevant websites from companies or interest groups; 54 of them - or 29 percent - gave flawed information.

According to the AAP, infants' cribs should be free of soft objects like blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. And parents should not use "bumper pads" on the sides of the crib.

Those products, which tie to the crib slats, are marketed for preventing head injuries and keeping babies' limbs from getting trapped. But the AAP says bumper pads may raise the risk of suffocation or strangulation. 


AAP says parents should not have their infants sleep in bed with them.

A recent study of more than 3,100 U.S. infants who died of SIDS found that 70 percent were sleeping on a bed or other surface "not intended for infants" - most often with an adult or another child. 

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