Cold temps may be upon us, but a new study published in Pediatrics has a message for the parents of the 55% of infants who are put to bed with a blanket, quilt, comforter, or pillow: Don't do it. The federal study is the first to attempt to quantify the practice, and the numbers "startled" Dr. Michael Goodstein, a member of the task force on sleep-related infant deaths at the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Sleeping face down on soft bedding increases the risks of SIDS 21-fold," he tells the New York Times; increased suffocation risk is also a factor. The study analyzed data collected in a phone survey of roughly 19,000 parents between 1993 and 2010 and found that the use of such bedding did decrease from an average of 86% between 1993 and 1995 to 55% in the study's final three years.
But "the rate of decline in bedding use was markedly less from 2001–2010 compared with 1993–2000." The study's lead author cites "mixed messages," saying, "A relative will give them a quilt or fluffy blanket that they may feel obligated to use, or they look at magazines and see a baby sleeping with a pillow." Though the parents weren't asked why they made the bedding choice they did, the Times notes that previous research has surfaced these answers: fears the baby would be cold or would be uncomfortable on a hard crib mattress. In terms of the latter, a blanket should never be placed beneath a baby, either. Sleep sacks are OK, so long as they're the proper size for the child. (Read more baby stories.)