Infant Safe Sleep Interventions, 1990–2015: A Review


Sleep-related infant deaths remain a major public health issue. Multiple interventions have been implemented in efforts to increase adherence to safe sleep recommendations. We conducted a systematic review of the international research literature to synthesize research on interventions to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths and their effectiveness in changing infant sleep practices. We searched PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar for peer-reviewed articles published between 1990 and 2015 which described an intervention and reported results. Twenty-nine articles were included for review. Studies focused on infant caregivers, health care professionals, peers, and child care professionals. Targeted behaviors included sleep position, location, removing items from the crib, breastfeeding, smoke exposure, clothing, pacifier use, and knowledge of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Most articles described multi-faceted interventions, including: one-on-one or group education, printed materials, visual displays, videos, and providing resources such as cribs, pacifiers, wearable blankets, and infant t-shirts. Two described public education campaigns, one used an educative questionnaire, and one encouraged maternal note taking. Health professional interventions included implementing safe sleep policies, in-service training, printed provider materials, eliciting agreement on a Declaration of Safe Sleep Practice, and sharing adherence data. Data collection methods included self-report via surveys and observational crib audits. Over half of the studies utilized comparison groups which helped determine effectiveness. Most articles reported some degree of success in changing some of the targeted behaviors; no studies reported complete adherence to recommendations. Future studies should incorporate rigorous evaluation plans, utilize comparison groups, and collect demographic and collect follow-up data.

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Correspondence to Trina C. Salm Ward.

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Salm Ward, T.C., Balfour, G.M. Infant Safe Sleep Interventions, 1990–2015: A Review. J Community Health 41, 180–196 (2016).

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  • Infant sleep
  • Safe sleep
  • SIDS prevention
  • Intervention
  • Education
  • Review