Are magazines misleading moms about ‘back to sleep’?

A new study published in the medical journal “Pediatrics” showed that more one-third of publications targeted toward women ages 20 to 40 show pictures of babies in unsafe sleeping positions.

Hopefully, most moms know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies should be put to sleep on their backs — not on soft surfaces and not with loose bedding, which can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The Daily News reports:

“But when the ‘Pediatrics’ study examined almost 400 pictures of sleeping babies from 28 women’s magazines, including ‘Parenting,’ ‘Pregnancy’ and ‘Baby Talk,’ the infants were often portrayed curled up on their sides or sleeping on their bellies in many advertisements.”

“The tots were shot on their stomachs or sides 36 percent of the time, and 63 percent of photos showed hazardous sleeping environments that contained pillows, stuffed animals and blankets, or sharing a bed with an adult.”

” ‘It’s a subliminal message. If a mom sees that [unsafe ad], she may think it’s OK to sleep her baby in that particular position,’ Brandi Joyner, the lead author of the study and a SIDS researcher and health educator at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told ABC News. ‘That causes confusion as far as complacency in infant sleep practices.’ “

Another doctor points out that is also hurts when celebrities are shown breaking the rules in their home nurseries.

” ‘I recall the images of Jennifer Lopez’s nursery [from ‘People' magazine] for her newborn twins,’ Dr. Fern Hauck, a member of the AAP Task Force on, also told ABC. ‘Fluffy comforters, bumper pads [...] totally wrong message. You can be sure that all those readers took away the message that this was the nursery to yearn for.’ “

I totally remember seeing that Jennifer Lopez spread, and I do remember noticing all the soft silky bedding.

This reminds me of when I was editing News for Kids for the AJC and got a nasty letter from a teacher and her class that I had used a photo of a child on a bike not wearing a helmet. They wrote it was sending the wrong message to my young readers.  I didn’t make that mistake again.

Should magazines always only depict the safe way to put a child to sleep? Do they need to run notices if they don’t depict safe sleeping saying: Please do not lay your child this way. We just thought it made a cute photo.

Should we count on parents just knowing the proper way to put their babies to sleep or should the magazines have to show it the correct, but less pretty, way?

(You get two topics today. My kids were playing nicely in the basement. Please check out the topic: “Will free kids meals entice you to eat out more?”)

8 comments Add your comment


August 18th, 2009
8:46 am

I did what the doctor told me and out my babies “back to sleep”. HOWEVER, they always hated it and flipped themselves as soon as they could.

It is interesting to note that back when I was a baby doctors told moms to put the babies on their stomachs to prevent choking in case they threw up. My guess is that by the time my grandchildren are born we will be back to sleeping on stomachs or the side because of some other thing.


August 18th, 2009
9:19 am

Actually, momtoA&M, in the early to mid-90s, moms I babysat for were being told to put babies on their sides with a rolled up blanket behind baby’s back to keep them in place. There were even devices sold to help babies sleep on their sides. One was sort of a small terrycloth blanket with two strips of velcro that held terry-covered foam blocks in place in front and back of baby.


August 18th, 2009
10:26 am

I agree with HB – my son was born in 1995 and we were told to let him sleep on his side. He was VERY preemie (2 lbs. 3 oz.) and they also told us to elevate the mattress. So, we got one of those risers you would use in an office for a 10-key type calculator and used that. I thought they told us to let him sleep on his side because of his preemie status, but it seems they were telling other moms too.

I have to admit, I did SPLURGE in a major way on his bedding. I bought Pashima sheets for him. They were so soft.

Once he finally learned how to roll over by himself, it didn’t matter what position he started in, he always ended up on stomach with his butt in the air!


August 18th, 2009
10:46 am

The night after my first child learned to roll over, I was SO worried that she would roll onto her tummy while she was sleeping — and she did. I was up every 20 minutes all night turning her over onto her back! Exhausting!
She had a check-up the next morning, so I told her doctor all about it and he laughed. He said that babies who can roll over easily can usually reposition themselves if they are having trouble breathing, and that I should put her down to sleep on her back but not worry to much if she rolled over.


August 18th, 2009
11:02 am

One child had to sleep in the car carrier due to asthma! Both babies were put to sleep on their sides (an AAP approved alternate to Back to Sleep). Both babies were rolling over by age 3 months so we did not have long to worry.

My big thing was blankets…..To this day I do not get why you put a baby under fleece or other ’solid’ blankets. Both babies had hand made afgans with LARGE to EXTRA Large ‘holes’ in them so if they scooted under it I knew air would still get to them! My poor mother was 1/3 through a beautiful blanket for Baby #2 and it was a close knit thing….I just cried and well…I acted up…..Once I explained why my mother ripped the whole thing apart and re-made it. (My Dad chewed me a new one–and I probably deserved it). However, Mom said once I explained it she started making sure ALL the blankets she makes for newborns (she does them for gifts) had the big holes…

Now on the back to sleep thing….That took me FOREVER to convince my parents of when they watched my babies. They kept saying about how the baby could choke….so that is when we read up and went with Side to Sleep.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 18th, 2009
11:31 am

Also remember last year’s discover that fans in the baby room make a huge difference — they keep the air moving so they don’t get the carbon dioxide back —


August 18th, 2009
4:09 pm

I understand that people get influenced by what they see in pictures and magazines, but come on! If the doctor tells you to put your baby on his back because that is the safest way for him to sleep, then that should be enough. Just because I see a picture of J-Lo’s twins with fluffy bedding doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and try to find the exact same thing for my nursery. It’s fun to look at, but really, who can afford that stuff anyway? If pictures influence people that much, then that’s most likely not their only problem.


August 18th, 2009
10:33 pm

there being a 17 year diference from my first child to my last i have heard so many different ‘advices’. i swear you would think babies havent been being born and living or dying for 100’s of years. i hope that doesnt sound cold hearted…it surely isnt meant that way….but i think people have way too many things to worry about these days…no wonder people cant make it thru a day without some kind of ‘helper’ everyone lives in such a state of anxiety it is awful. i have 3 friends who have babies died of sids and everyone was sleeping differently. i had a friend who lost her 4 yo to a simple stomach virus…and i have many friends and know lots of people who i think often “how do those kids live??” people just have to stop worrying over everything in the world…