Babies and children

Women's magazines misrepresent safe sleep for babies

Newborns should sleep on their back Heighten risk of sudden infant death syndrome

Women's magazines are depicting infants in unsafe sleep positions, potentially misleading mothers about how best to put their child to bed.

A new study in the US looked at pictures of sleeping infants in articles and advertisements in 24 magazines with wide circulation among women of childbearing age. It found that more than one third of photos depicted babies in unsafe sleep positions, and two-thirds depicted unsafe sleep environments.

Unsafe sleep positions, with the baby placed on its side or stomach rather than on its back, and soft bedding can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death. It is the sudden unexpected death of an apparently healthy baby aged from birth to two years.

"There are major discrepancies between what doctors recommend to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and what moms may see in mainstream media," said Dr. Rachel Moon, who led the study with Brandi Joyner at the Children's National Medical Center.

"The most important thing for moms to realize is that what they see in magazines may not be what's best for their baby in real life," Dr Moon added.

The study, titled "Infant Sleep Environments Depicted in Magazines Targeted to Women of Childbearing Age," appears in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Babies are more at risk of SIDS if they sleep:

  • with an adult rather than in their own crib or cot,
  • on their side or stomach, or
  • with a duvet, quilt or pillow

Babies should always be laid to sleep on their back, with their feet touching the foot of the cot.

Sheets or thin blankets should be tucked in and made up so that they come no higher than the baby's shoulders, to prevent them wriggling under the covers. The covers should be securely tucked in so they cannot slip over the baby's head.

This article was published on Tue 18 August 2009

Image © Rohit Seth -

Related Stories

Use this story

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page