OBJECTIVE: The goal was to evaluate pictures in magazines widely read by women of childbearing age, for adherence to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for safe infant sleep practices.
METHODS: Magazines were included in this study if they had an average female readership of >5 million, circulation of >900000, and median age of female readers of 20 to 40 years. Twenty magazines met these criteria. An additional 8 magazines targeted toward expectant parents and parents of young children were included, for a total of 28 magazines. Pictures of infant sleep environments and sleeping infants in articles and advertisements in issues of these 28 magazines were analyzed for adherence to AAP guidelines for decreasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
RESULTS: A total of 391 unique pictures from 34 magazine issues were included in the analysis. Only 57 pictures (64%) portraying sleeping infants not being held by an adult portrayed the infants in the supine position, and 14.8% of sleeping infants were portrayed as sleeping with another person. Only 36 pictures (36.4%) of infant sleep environments portrayed a safe sleep environment, as recommended by the AAP.
CONCLUSIONS: More than one third of pictures of sleeping infants in magazines geared toward childbearing women demonstrated infants in an inappropriate sleep position, and two thirds of pictures of infant sleep environments were not consistent with AAP recommendations. Messages in the media that are inconsistent with health care messages create confusion and misinformation about infant sleep safety and may lead inadvertently to unsafe practices.