Monday, November 26th, 2012
Federal officials from two agencies are warning that “baby sleep positioners,” mat- or wedge-shaped bolsters that are supposed to encourage babies to sleep on their backs, are actually quite dangerous and are responsible for at least 13 deaths in the past 15 years. The New York Times has more:
“We urge parents and caregivers to take our warning seriously and stop using these sleep positioners,” Inez Tenenbaum, the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in a statement.
The sleep positioner devices come primarily in two forms. One is a flat mat with soft bolsters on each side. The other, known as a wedge-style positioner, looks very similar but has an incline, keeping a child in a very slight upright position.
Makers of the devices claim that by keeping infants in a specific position as they sleep, they can prevent several conditions, including acid reflux and flat head syndrome, a deformation caused by pressure on one part of the skull. Many are also marketed to parents as a way to help reduce a child’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which kills thousands of babies every year, most between the ages of 2 months and 4 months.
But the devices have never been shown in studies to prevent SIDS, and they may actually raise the likelihood of sudden infant death, officials say. One of the leading risk factors for sudden infant death is placing a baby on his or her stomach at bedtime, and health officials have routinely warned parents to lay babies on their backs. They even initiated a “Back to Sleep” campaign in the 1990s, which led to a sharp reduction in sudden infant deaths.
With the positioner devices, if an infant rolls onto the stomach, the child’s mouth and nose can press up against a bolster or some other part of the device, leading to suffocation. Even if placed on the back, a child can move up or down in the positioner, “entrapping its face against a bolster or becoming trapped between the positioner and the crib side,” Gail Gantt, a nurse consultant with the Food and Drug Administration, said in an e-mail. Or the child might scoot down the wedge in a way that causes the child’s mouth and nose to press into the device.
Image: Sleeping baby, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Sleep-training techniques that fall into the controversial “cry-it-out” category are actually effective and do not cause psychological harm if conducted in a controlled, consistent way, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Time.com has more:
The study looked at two sleep-training methods known as controlled comforting and camping out, both of which let babies cry it out for short amounts of time. Controlled comforting requires the parent to respond to their child’s cries at increasingly longer intervals to try to encourage the baby to settle down on her own. In camping out, the parent sits in a chair next to the child as he learns to fall asleep; slowly, over time, parents move the chair farther and farther away, until they are out of the room and the infant falls asleep alone.
While neither strategy is as extreme as letting babies cry all night by themselves, they have been criticized over concerns that they may cause long-term emotional or psychological harm in babies, interfere with their ability to manage stress or cripple their relationship with their parents.
The new study by Australian researchers involved 326 children who had parent-reported sleep problems at 7 months. Half of the babies were put in the sleep-training group, in which parents learned helpful bedtime routines as well as the controlled-comforting or camping-out technique (parents could choose which strategy they wanted to use), and half were put in a control group that did not use sleep-training. The researchers followed up with the participants and their parents five years later. (By the study’s end, about 30% of families had dropped out.)
By age 6, the researchers found no significant differences between the kids in either group in terms of emotional health, behavior or sleep problems. In fact, slightly more children in the control group had emotional or behavioral problems than in the sleep-trained group.
Researchers also found no differences in mothers’ levels of depression or anxiety, or in the strength of parent-child bonds between families who had used sleep-training and those who hadn’t.
Image: Crying baby in crib, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Researchers at the University of South Carolina and George Washington University medical schools have analyzed the search results that parents get when searching for common child health-related phrases including “infant sleep position” and “infant cigarette smoking,” and discovered that a high proportion of the results contain medically inaccurate information. The Boston Globe has more:
About 57 percent of the sites provided either inaccurate or irrelevant information, while 43 percent were accurate.
The search words “infant cigarette smoking,” “infant sleep position,” and “infant sleep surface,” were most likely to produce results with accurate information. Government and organizational websites were the most accurate. Sites that contained inaccurate information were mostly blogs, retail product sites, and independent websites. News sites had accurate information about half of the time.
Image: Family with laptop, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Mothers who are depressed are more likely to wake up their babies during the night, even if the child is fine, a new study published in the journal Child Development has found. CNN.com reports:
In the study, published in the journal Child Development, researchers at Pennsylvania State University observed 45 families over the course of a week. The children ranged in age from 1 month to 2 years. Moms were asked questions about a variety of issues from how they were doing emotionally to the baby’s sleep patterns.
Cameras were also installed to watch how the moms interacted with their babies in the middle of the night.
Here’s what they found: Moms who had higher levels of symptoms of depression were more likely to respond to minor sounds, wake their baby up and nurse them (even if they weren’t hungry) or pick their sleeping child up and put them in bed with them. It can be a vicious cycle.
“The more sleep you lose, the more likely you are to feel depressed,” says lead author Douglas M. Teti, a professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics at Pennsylvania State University.
Image: Sleeping baby, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, January 9th, 2012
Infants and toddlers who exhibit sleep problems–a common issue, any parent will tell you–may have a greater risk of developing sleep disorders later in life, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The study reports that one in 10 infants and toddlers fall into the risk category, and urges pediatricians to screen for sleep issues and signs of potential problems, chiefly regular snoring that can signal later onset of obstructive sleep apnea.
The New York Times reports on the findings:
The findings also challenged a widespread notion that children who have sleep troubles early on tend to outgrow them. In the study, children who had one or more sleep problems at any point in early childhood were three to five times as likely to have a sleep problem later on.
“The data indicate that sleep problems in children are not an isolated phenomenon,” said Dr. Kelly Byars, an associate professor at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and an author of the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics. “If you have it early and it’s not remedied, then it’s likely to continue over time.”
The warning signs of a disorder can vary widely. But some indicators of a potential problem in children are loud snoring several nights a week, frequent bouts of getting up in the middle of the night, nightmares or night terrors, and routinely taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep.
Image: Infant crying in crib, via Shutterstock.
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