Sleeping Babies Risk Of Softer Beds Not Proven To Be Safer

08/24/2011 02:01 PM ET

Softer beds for babies is not proven to be safer. Most parents add pillows and blankets thinking they are making their baby more comfortable. However, a US Study says this happens despite its warning of increased risk of death due to extra cushioning.

"There's this impression that soft is safe," said Dr. Rachel Moon one of the authors of the new study from Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. "But when it comes to babies' sleep environment, soft is not safe, it's actually dangerous."

The researchers found that African American babies are at least twice as likely as white, Latino, and Asian babies to die of accidental suffocation, strangulation or sudden infant death syndrome. While some of that higher incidence may be related to genetics, much of it is probably due to parents unknowingly putting infants in a dangerous sleeping place or position, Moon said. The study then interviewed 83 African-American women with new babies in the home to if they were adding extra bedding and why.

According to findings published in Pediatrics, more than half of the mothers reported using soft bedding for their baby, telling researchers they wanted to make sure the children were comfortable and warm. They also said they used pillows as a barricade on beds or sofas, or to prop babies up. While the interviews were only done with black mothers, parents of all races may misinterpret a pediatrician' s recommendations or what constitutes a safe sleeping environment, said Debra Weese-Mayer, a pediatrician at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"We were surprised that people use (softer bedding) because they think it's going to make their baby safer," Moon told Reuters Health. "We weren't that surprised that people use it to make the babies comfortable." Some mothers thought doctors' recommendations to use a "firm sleep surface" included a bed where a sheet was tucked tightly over pillows, but that's still a dangerous sleep situation, the researchers warned.

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