(HealthDay News) — Although soft bedding has been linked to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), more than half of American parents continue to use such bedding for their sleeping babies, according to a study published online December 1 in Pediatrics.

Carrie Shapiro-Mendoza, PhD, MPH, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed the results of the National Infant Sleep Position survey. This poll was conducted by phone annually between 1993–2010. Over that time, 18,952 parents of children <8 months answered questions about their baby’s sleep environment. Most respondents were white mothers, nearly half had a college education, and about half had a previous child. The researchers found that the use of bedding for infants declined from an average of 86% between 1993–1995 to an average of 55% between 2008–2010. Most of that decline, however, occurred before 2000.

The most common use of bedding occurred among teen mothers, more than 80% of whom used bedding. Not having a college education and younger mothers in general were also linked to more frequent use of bedding. Minority mothers were more likely than white mothers to use soft bedding. About 70% of the infants sleeping with soft bedding were on adult beds and/or sharing a sleeping surface with someone else. The most common type of bedding covers used were thick blankets, used by just over a third of parents (37.6%), and quilts or comforters, which 19.9% of parents used. But the use of thick blankets and quilts or comforters dropped significantly between 1993-1995 and 2008-2010.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended since 1996 that infants be placed in sleeping environments without any soft surfaces or objects that might trap air. “Soft bedding has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS. Soft objects and loose bedding – such as thick blankets, quilts, and pillows – can obstruct an infant’s airway and impose suffocation risk,” Shapiro-Mendoza told HealthDay.

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