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Beware the Bassinet

In the hope of reducing deaths of babies from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep in their own space, such as in a crib or bassinet. But bassinets, it turns out, may not always be so safe, new research shows.

Jodi Pike and Rachel Moon at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington reviewed all 54 deaths of infants involving bassinets reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 1990 and 2004. Eighty-five percent of the babies suffocated. More than 30 percent had been placed on their stomachs to go to sleep. About 50 percent were found face down. In 74 percent of the cases, other items, such as soft bedding, were in the bassinets.

Based on the findings, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the researchers urge parents to always put their babies to sleep on their backs and never put loose items such as blankets or pillows in the bassinet with the baby. Babies placed on their sides tend to roll onto their stomachs.

In 17 percent of the cases, a mechanical problem was found with the bassinet: for example, the bassinet collapsed, or had a broken wooden slat or leg or malfunctioning stabilizing clips, which caused the mattress to shift. So parents should also make sure their bassinet is in good shape and conforms to government safety guidelines. In four cases, the bassinet had a mechanical swing or pendulum. The researchers speculated such devices could cause the baby to move to a corner, where suffocation is more likely.

Because six of the babies were found with their faces wedged against the side of the bassinet, the researchers suggest that bassinets with sides made of permeable material such as mesh may be safer.

In a related article , the researchers reviewed the sleep locations of 708 mothers and their infants using data collected from several Women, Infant and Children (WIC) centers in 2005. They found that about a third of the mothers and infants slept together, a practice that is discouraged because of the danger of SIDS.

Where does your baby sleep?

By Rob Stein  |  July 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Motherhood  
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