August 17th, 2009
04:47 PM ET

Many baby-oriented ads depict unsafe sleep environments

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical News Managing Editor

Expectant parents have a lot to think about as the birth of their child approaches. Parenting classes can provide tips on a variety of topics including breathing techniques to help get through labor, breastfeeding and how to place your baby in the bassinet or crib to avoid sudden infant death syndrome. SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies age 1 month to 1 year. According to the National Institutes of Health, most of these unexplained deaths occur between the ages of 2 and 4 months.

The exact cause is not known, but experts believe that the how a baby sleeps can play a big role in preventing a baby from dying. Having the baby sleep on his or her back is the No. 1 recommendation. Keeping the baby's bed free of anything that might suffocate him or her is also very important, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics has the following guideline:

"Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib: Soft objects such as pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft objects should be kept out of an infant's sleeping environment." The group also says that if bumper pads are used, they should be “thin, firm, well secured, and not pillow-like.” Further, the academy says, “loose bedding such as blankets and sheets may be hazardous."

Now a new study finds that would-be parents are getting a mixed message, at least from some ads and photos in popular magazines. According to this study, researchers looked at nearly 400 pictures in 28 popular magazines. Among photos that were used in advertising and articles, researchers found only 36 pictures depicting children in a safe sleeping position.

Most of the images pictured infant sleep environments that did not reflect AAP guidelines to prevent SIDS.

It reminded me of some of the images I saw surfing the Web as I was looking to outfit my baby’s nursery and put things on my registry for my shower.

I saw bedding sets with thick bumpers and blankets, which was confusing to me because I thought the only thing that's supposed to be in my baby's bed is the firm mattress, a sheet and him. My confusion seems to mirror what the researchers of this new study found. They found that "messages in the media are inconsistent with health care messages, create confusion and misinformation...and may lead inadvertently to unsafe practices."

Have you seen images of babies wrapped in blankets and/or placed in super-soft bedding? Would images like this influence how you put your baby to sleep?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.