A new study looks at the prevalence of unsafe sleep patterns that contribute to SIDS.

baby boy sleeping on his back
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Study after study has proven that putting baby to bed in a safe sleep environment is of the utmost importance to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant death, including SIDS. And yet, parents are still making potentially life-threatening mistakes at bedtime.

In a new study, "Nocturnal Video Assessment of Infant Sleep Environments," published in the September 2016 issue of Pediatrics, researchers looked at videos of 167 infants at ages 1, 3, and 6 months being put to bed in their own homes. Even though parents knew they were being recorded, unsafe sleep practices were still noted.

Among the unsafe patterns recorded by researchers: positioning infants on their sides or stomachs to sleep, or on soft surfaces, and with loose bedding. Other parents practiced bed-sharing, which is a proven hazard for small children.

Interestingly, babies who were moved in the middle of the night were more likely to be placed in an unsafe sleep environment. As a three-time mom who is all too familiar with late-night feedings, this makes complete sense. When you are exhausted, you definitely start to cut corners. But the most important takeaway from this study is that there's a huge correlation between practicing safe sleep habits and a baby's well being.

Ian M. Paul, M.D., M.Sc., study author and professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, offered these tips to Parents.com for creating a safe sleep environment for babies:

  1. Infants should be placed on their backs to sleep EVERY time on their own sleep surface. Side and belly sleeping place infants at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Once an infant can roll from the back to belly and from the belly to back position, the infant can be allowed to remain in the sleep position that he or she assumes.
  2. Infants should sleep in a safety-approved crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet. The sleep environment should be completely free of loose objects including pillows, quilts, comforters, wedges, positioners, bumper pads, stuffed animals, and toys. Bed-sharing with a parent or another person increases risk for SIDS.
  3. If a breastfeeding mother brings the infant into the adult bed for nursing, the infant should be returned to a separate sleep surface when the mother is ready for sleep.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.