For the past two decades parents have been urged to place babies on their backs in hopes of reducing the prevalence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but many have not gotten the message.
The recent study also suggests healthcare providers have not worked hard enough to get the message out, an American Academy of Pediatrics news release reported.
Supine sleeping (being placed on the back to sleep) rates are as low as 50 percent in some U.S. regions. Across the country only about two-thirds of infants are placed on their backs to sleep.
“Given that supine sleep positioning significantly reduces an infant’s risk for SIDS, it is worrisome that only two-thirds of full-term infants born in the US are being placed back-to-sleep,” said Sunah Hwang, an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, the US.
More concerning is that adherence to safe sleep positioning is even lower for premature infants who are at even greater risk for SIDS compared to term infants, Hwang said.
SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants between one month and one year of age.
The study included 392,397 infants born in 36 states.
Both premature and term infants had suboptimal rates of supine sleep positioning after hospital discharge, the study said.