Understanding Influences of Unsafe Sleep

In order to understand how to educate a client, we must first understand their current situation, barriers, worries, concerns, etc. regarding safe sleep practices.

Physiology/Baby’s temperament
All babies are different. Some babies are easy to soothe, some are difficult, some sleep well, some only sleep in spurts, and others are colicky or have reflux. Physiology and baby's temperament can have a big impact on if parents follow the safe sleep recommendations.

Parents’ need for sleep
Exhaustion may be intensified by: parents returning to work, newborn feeding frequency, baby's crying, and possibly limited support. When parents are in desperate need of sleep, it can be very challenging to follow the safe sleep guidelines.

Family/cultural norms
This takes into account all of the many family and cultural traditions around sleep and taking care of babies, and there are a lot of them. People may say "This is how we do it, this is how we have always done it" or "All our babies sleep that way – and they turned out fine." Also, it is very difficult to have a conversation surrounding safe sleep with loved ones because it could seem offensive.

Many parents feel that they need to be physically close to their baby to have a connection with them. They may feel that they are ignoring, mistreating, or even somehow damaging or not bonding with their baby if he is not right next to them, including during sleep. Some parents feel strongly that they don't want baby to be "alone.“

Media influence
Parents are constantly bombarded with images of unsafe sleep from ads, movies, TV shows, in stores, and even Instagram posts on what their favorite singer's baby's nursery looks like. All of these can be very influential to parents.

Emotional Issues/history
People's past experiences can affect how they parent. For example, a parent may not feel comfortable having her baby sleep away from her. She may bring baby into her bed instead of following the safe sleep guidelines

Ability to process risk/understand information
The ability of a parent to process risks may be impacted by a number of reasons including difficulty understanding information shared due to language barriers, developmental delays and substances impacting judgement.

Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health include all of the social, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to the overall health of individuals and communities. Social factors include racial and ethnic discrimination, political influence, and social connectedness.

Families may experience environmental barriers that make having a safe sleep environment difficult (such as, lack of crib or pack 'n play, small living quarters, heating/cooling issues in their home).

Some content provided with approval from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services


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Why might a caregiver choose to not practice safe sleep?