When you're a new parent, taking care of your infant while they're sleeping is important. Yet you might not always know the best sleep practices for your baby, which is where technology can come in.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, moms are more likely to adhere to safe sleep practices for their babies when they get educational intervention notices on their phone with information on how to take care of their infants.
Researchers at the Yale, University of Virginia and Boston University schools of medicine tested two different types of educational programs for moms. The first was a complementary program where nurses taught new parents about safe sleep practices for infants while the parents were still in the hospital.
However, the program alone did not have a significant effect on parents adhering to those recommended safe sleep habits. Yet when researchers tested a second intervention—a mobile phone program that sent parents informational videos and messages—it significantly improved chances that those parents adhered to safe-sleep best practices for their babies.
"We'd been looking at the prevalence of safe sleep practices for a long time," said Dr. Eve Colson, professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, "and I had been getting really energized about doing a study that takes what we know about safe sleep prevalence and tests an intervention that might help improve the adherence to the 'gold standard' safe sleep practices."
This study is important, since following the recommended safe sleep practices can reduce the risk of a child suffering from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which can include SIDS, accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed, as well as unknown causes. According to reports, approximately 3,500 infants died during their sleep in 2014 in the United States due to a form of SUID.
For parents that commit to safe sleep practices for their infants, the results are positive. Recommended safe sleep practices include placing babies on their backs (instead of on their sides of stomachs), keeping babies in the room with the mother but not in the same bed, avoiding soft bedding that could strangle or suffocate them, and using pacifiers (which have been shown to reduce SIDS risk).
The study has shown improvements in parents adhering to those very specific sleep practices by sending them mobile videos that educate new parents on things such as back sleeping (92.5 percent adherence rate) and room-sharing without bed-sharing (85.9 percent adherence rate) . In comparison, the rates for the group who only received an in-hospital intervention on safe sleeping practices did not have as high rates of achievement.
That doesn't mean that you shouldn't listen to what you learn in the hospital, however.
"Don’t give up on what you are taught to do in the hospital," Colson said. "Many hospitals are already role-modeling the right thing. Keep following the safe sleep practices they show you that are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics."
Although the mobile intervention program is not yet available for new parents, study authors are hopeful that the results will inspire more parents to adhere to infant safe sleep practices.