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A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics by researchers from the Breathing Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado aimed to better understand how adolescent mothers approach safe infant sleep.
Sudden unexpected infant death syndrome (SUID) — which includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — is the nation’s number one cause of death in infants 1 month to 1 year old. Efforts to reduce SIDS, including awareness campaigns and guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics, have helped level off death rates since 1999, but the incidence of accidental strangulation or suffocation in bed is increasing.
It is known that maternal age of under 20 correlates with a greater risk of SIDS. Breathing Institute researchers conducted the study with seven focus groups, which included 43 adolescent mothers in Colorado.
The focus groups explored the mothers’ safe sleep knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and current practices to understand where they get their information and what motivates their decision making. Researchers used this insight to develop future intervention strategies.
Between November 2012 and April 2013, a moderator conducted the focus groups using a pre-developed guide.
The mothers were asked about sleep position, sleep environment, sleep location, smoke exposure and parenting ability.
The researchers identified five common themes (in addition to several related subthemes):
While participants were aware of infant safe sleep recommendations, most deliberately chose to violate them. Results revealed that adolescent mothers’ underlying attitudes, beliefs and instincts outweighed knowledge and medical advice.
Additionally, these adolescent mothers differed from mothers in other SUID risk studies due the exhibition of cavalier confidence of their parenting knowledge and ability — even when most of their instincts conflicted with safe sleep recommendations.
Through this study, researchers identified new approaches to address misconceptions of adolescent mothers regarding safe sleep practices. The new strategies to reducing SUID risk among this population include:
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