Many black parents believe soft bedding will keep their infants safe from sudden infant death syndrome

Research Activities, November 2012, No. 387

Creating a safe sleep environment is an important way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a firm, snug-fitting mattress and avoiding the use of pillows, quilts, blankets, bumper pads, and soft sleep surfaces. Despite these recommendations, however, many parents continue to use soft bedding and surfaces. This is more common in black families and among parents who share beds with their infants. In fact, a new study reveals that many black parents hold the mistaken belief that soft bedding will actually keep their infant safe. In addition, confusion exists over the meaning of a firm sleep surface. The researchers interviewed 83 black mothers, 73 in focus groups and 10 in individual interviews.

A baby's cradle is shown surrounded by a blue bubble.

Mothers of both lower and higher socioeconomic status (SES) were included in the study. The mothers were asked about their use of blankets and bumper pads, as well as their perceptions of sleep surfaces and how such surfaces feel to their infants. Regardless of SES or educational level, black mothers cited infant safety and comfort as the primary reasons for using soft bedding and soft sleep surfaces.

Many believed that a soft environment and bumper pads would protect the baby from injury and falls. The mothers also had various perceptions of what a firm sleep surface meant. Many believed that firm actually meant taut—that as long as a sheet was tucked tautly around a pillow or blanket, it would be okay to use these items. They also thought blankets were fine if they did not go past the shoulders of the infants or did not have holes in them, such as afghans.

The researchers conclude that more education and effective product design is necessary on the part of manufacturers and health care providers. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS18892).

See "Decisions of black parents about infant bedding and sleep surfaces: A qualitative study," by Taiwo I. Ajao, M.P.H., Rosalind P. Oden, Brandi L. Joyner, B.S., and Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., in Pediatrics 128(3), pp. 494-502, 2011.


Current as of November 2012
Internet Citation: Many black parents believe soft bedding will keep their infants safe from sudden infant death syndrome: Research Activities, November 2012, No. 387. November 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.