July 08, 2016
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Teenage mothers often ignore safe sleeping practices for their infants

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Although most focus group participants were aware of infant sleep recommendations advised by the AAP, many teenage mothers did not adhere to safe sleep practices, according to recently published study data.

“Between 2009 and 2013, 263 sleep-related infant deaths occurred in Colorado, none of which occurred in a safe sleep environment according to the AAP recommendations,” researcher Michelle Caraballo, MD, from the department of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, and colleagues wrote in The Journal of Pediatrics. “Maternal age [of being younger than] 20 years has been consistently associated with increased risk of [sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)]. Extensive prior research has elucidated maternal decision-making and barriers to adherence with infant sleep recommendations, but this question has not been specifically investigated among the high-risk demographic of teenage mothers.”

In their qualitative study, the researchers conducted seven focus groups at daycare centers in Colorado high schools that elicited information on knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and current sleep practices from 43 teenage mothers. Twenty-one mothers identified as Hispanic or Latino, 16 as white, two as black and four as mixed race or another race.

From November 2012 to April 2013, the researchers asked the mothers of children aged 2 to 21 months open-ended questions to collect their knowledge of safe sleeping practices. Conversations were recorded, transcribed, validated and analyzed.

Analysis showed that most of the mothers knew of the AAP’s recommendations for safe infant sleep. Almost all participants, however, reported they slept in the same bed with their babies and used loose blankets or soft bedding despite knowledge of the associated risks for SIDS and sudden unexpected infant death.

Reasons for not adhering to AAP recommendations correlated strongly with maternal instincts, that bedsharing was a bonding opportunity and that it was easier than using a separate sleep space. Many of the mothers grappled with conflicting advice between medical providers and their own mothers, with whom they often lived and sought approval.

The decision-making process of teenage mothers compared with older mothers was risky and involved an overconfident attitude about how they knew what was best for their babies despite AAP and medical provider recommendations, according to the study. Participants were more likely to follow advice from their own mothers or gut instincts, the investigators said.

“New approaches, which may include routine education of grandmothers … and innovative public service announcements targeting teenage mothers, might improve adolescent mothers’ misperceptions to affect behavior change and reduce SUID risk in this high-risk population,” Caraballo and colleagues wrote. – by Kate Sherrer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.