Do you put an infant to sleep on its belly or on its back? Over time, the advice on how best to prevent SIDS with infant sleeping positions has changed, yet parenting magazines have not kept pace with the changes. Do these misleading images negatively affect parents in choosing the safest sleep position for their infants? Pediatrics, the official magazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is concerned.
Exposures in media may play a large role in affecting individual behaviors. Messages in media
were much more likely to result in changes in infant sleep position than were health professional recommendations when the initial AAP recommendations were released.
I have to admit, I was not a parent to follow all of the recommended guidelines when it came to what position to place my babes when at rest. Sure, I removed all blankets and toys to avoid suffocation, but my children both preferred to sleep on their sides, and we coslept at night. I figured this was a good compromise between the suggested sleep position on the stomach of yesteryear to the newer recommendations of on the back as the safest way to rest.
We know the media affects people, and infant sleep positions is not immune to this influence. The articles in parenting magazines themselves were not so much to blame for inaccurately portraying safe infant sleeping positons as the advertisements contained within the magazines’ pages:
Advertisements contained 66% of the pictures reviewed, and the pictures were more likely to deviate from AAP guidelines than were pictures accompanying articles. This disparity may be largely because articles and advertisements have different aims. Articles are more likely to focus on providing information to parents and, with the exception of those featuring celebrity parents and their infants, the articles reviewed in this study were more likely to be consistent with AAP recommendations. In contrast, advertisements are designed to sell a particular product and often are focused on a particular demographic group, with the intention of inﬂuencing thinking such that consumers will be more likely to purchase the item, regardless of safety recommendations.
Once again, we are reminded to use our best judgment and avoid the potential negative effects of advertising.