Sleeping like a baby…in a magazine?

The AAP may not approve.

This month’s Pediatrics contains a study which examined how infant sleep is depicted in magazines geared towards women of childbearing age (unfortunately, Mothering was not one of them). 391 pictures from ads and articles were considered, showing either a baby sleeping, an environment meant for infant sleep (e.g., a crib, baby hammock, or cosleeper), or both. Of special note:

* The researchers found that over a third (36%) of the sleeping infants that were not being held were pictured sleeping in the side or prone position.

* 14.8% (18 out of 122 pictures of sleeping babies) of the pictures showed the baby sleeping with another person; of those 18 pictures, 3 were sleeping with another infant/child, 4 were with another sleeping adult, and 11 were sleeping next to another awake person.

* Only 36% of the sleeping environments pictured (either with or without an infant pictured) met the AAP’s standard of a safe infant sleep environment.

I can’t say I’ve researched this quite as deeply, but I have done several Google Image searches for the terms “bedsharing” and “cosleeping” over the years, and it seems that while unsafe sleeping pictures still abound, images depicting safe sleep (in a cosleeper or with no soft bedding around the baby’s face) are increasing. This isn’t necessarily the case with books promoting cosleeping, I’m afraid. For example, while the old cover on Deborah Jackson’s book, Three in a Bed, wasn’t exactly the epitome of safe cosleeping:

The new cover is even worse, showing a prone-sleeping baby:

Tine Thevenin’s The Family Bed is old, so we might cut it a bit of slack for the baby being propped up on the parents’ pillows:

It’s hard to tell, but it looks like the baby in Dr. Sears’ Nighttime Parenting (published 1999, well after ‘Back to Sleep’ started) is also lying prone and the picture is turned sideways:

However, his Baby Sleep Book shows an infant (finally!) sleeping in the correct position, with his or her head clear of potential suffocation hazards:

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7 Responses

  1. Interesting.

    Of course, neither of my babies slept at all, anywhere, anytime, so any photo of an actual sleeping baby was like porn to me. 😉

  2. Hahahah Squillo, I second that!

  3. I notice pictures like this a lot, too. And on my baby pic blog, we now have a “bad” photo. Baby would not sleep in Pack N Play on vacation, so he ended up in the bed with me, prone, near pillows, while I had my back turned. Exhaustion is like that. Of course, he’s 15 months old, which is a different story. When he was actually cosleeping with us regularly, we were uber paranoid about pillows and blankets and never had those things near him. Now he’s mostly in the crib. Except on vacation, if you can really call it a vacation when you spend most of the night awake or collapsing in utter exhaustion after the fifth wakeup.

  4. Even in that last photo there are “rules” that my pediatrician told me broken: blankets for the under one-year crowd, not a tight fitting bottom sheet, and PJs with a collar. Overly picky? Maybe. But I haven’t seen a kid in a magazine sleep like mine (tight fitting sheet, sleep sack, proper PJs) ever.

  5. OMG Squillo you are so funny! So are the cosleepers acceptable? I had a strange experience with babies and sleep. My first baby was 24 years ago it was instilled in every new Mother not to fall asleep with the baby in the bed. Don’t fall asleep anywhere with the baby, ever. And 13 years later I was told by the Lactation Consultant that my pedi sent me to, to have my baby sleep in the bed with me. That the only babies who have been rolled over on are by folks who have taken cold medicine or drank alcohol. So I went home and plunked him in the bed and didn’t move, didn’t get much sleep because I was paranoid about crushing him. When I put him in the crib next to the bed, I felt much better. He ended up sleeping with us in one form or another for 5 years.

    Nowadays we tell folks not to sleep with their baby. Can you see where I would get a little confused?

  6. Pinky: The advice isn’t varying with time, but with the person giving it. The official advice has always been to avoid bedsharing. However, lactation consultants will often advise bedsharing in hopes that this will get more women breastfeeding. Whether it’s worth aiming to increase breastfeeding rates by means of an intervention which may in rare cases cause death of the baby is open to debate.

  7. Well said, Sarah V.

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