Images of sleeping infants on their stomachs may be harmful

Photo: Midwestgal |

Photo: Midwestgal |

The sweet pictures of babies slumbering that you see in magazine advertisements or other media articles could be promoting unsafe practices for infants. While images of a child sleeping with soft toys or sleeping infants on their stomachs look cute, those aren’t the ideal ways for a baby to rest. Such positions are known to increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

SIDS, also know as crib death or cot death, is the label applied when an infant dies, usually while sleeping, but no definite cause of death can be identified, even after autopsy. However, researchers have identified some conditions that lead to SIDS, The main cause is babies sleeping on their stomachs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep on their backs in order to lessen the risk of SIDS. Other risks include keeping soft toys and objects such as pillows and cushions in their cribs. It also recommends that babies do not share a bed with their parents, although there is no clear evidence that bed-sharing does any harm, except if any of the parents are smokers. A parent who smokes, especially if it is the mother, significantly increases the risk of SIDS.

A recent study examined to what extent advertising and media images conformed to recommended guidelines for infant sleeping positions. Since media have the potential to influence consumers and parents, it is important that magazine and newspaper articles that often use posed-for or stock images, and even advertisements, portray safe sleeping habits.

A search through Indian media brings up several images of babies on their stomachs, but many of those articles are about SIDS as well. On the other hand, even media companies that published SIDS articles sometimes use images of babies sleeping on their stomachs for other articles. The most extreme example by IBNLive

Photos: Zee News,, IBNLive

Photos: Zee News,, IBNLive

In the study, researchers looked through the most-used stock image websites. They also reviewed 26 magazines specifically targeting parents and to-be parents that were published in 2014. The images of babies who were not being held were scrutinized to check for sleeping position, sleeping location (such as in a crib), whether there was another person sleeping in the same area as the infant and the presence of soft objects in the sleeping area.

Researchers found that approximately half the stock images and 67% percent of magazine photos showed babies lying on their backs, which is a safe position. However, only about 16% of stock photos and 29% of magazine pictures illustrated AAP-guideline sleep environments.

“One-third of the magazine images showed infants sleeping on the tummy, which doubles the risk of SIDS. Magazines that are geared toward expectant mothers and new parents and manufacturers of infant products and their advertisers need to take the lead in using images that promote infant sleep safety,” said lead author Michael Goodstein, attending neonatologist at WellSpan York Hospital and clinical associate professor of pediatrics and Pennsylvania State University.

Media companies and advertisers need to be aware of the message they may be sending inadvertently by using the wrong type of image. In addition, informed readers can also call attention to these types of images through comments forms or social media.

Have you seen other examples of photos showing babies on their stomachs? Leave a comment on the page where you saw it! But please do like FamiLife’s page on Facebook so that you get all our articles and others may find us.

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