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Sudden infant death syndrome: investigating risk factors and safer sleeping practices

Mothers are asked to recall three sudden infant death syndrome strategies and identify risk in sleep scenarios 

Mothers are asked to recall three sudden infant death syndrome strategies and identify risk in sleep scenarios 


Picture: iStock

The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is known to be reduced by safer sleeping practices, including placing infants on their back to sleep. While there have been major campaigns to ensure parents are aware, it is not known how successful these have been or whether the knowledge levels have been sustained.

This study, conducted in areas of socio-economic deprivation, investigated both knowledge levels and attitudes towards safer sleeping practices: 400 mothers approached in health visitor-led clinics completed the face-to-face survey.

Mothers were asked to recall three SIDS prevention strategies and identify risk in 14 sleep scenarios. Data was compared between those who had infants at ‘higher’ risk of SIDS, determined through an algorithm based on factors such as smoking (12%) and those at ‘lower’ risk.

Mothers in the high risk group were less likely to recall two or more correct SIDS risk reduction strategies and identify risk in the sleeping scenarios than those in the low risk group. They were also less likely to breastfeed.

Only 52% of all the mothers identified the infant sleep position on their back as a SIDS risk-reduction strategy. The Back to Sleep message needs more effective promotion to this generation of mothers by all health professionals.

Pease AS, Blair PS, Ingram J et al (2018) Mothers’ knowledge and attitudes to sudden infant death syndrome risk reduction messages: results from a UK survey. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 103, 1, 33-38. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2017-312927


About the author

Vari Drennan is professor of healthcare and policy research, St George’s University of London and Kingston University, London

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