But, as I was working through the information, I couldn't help but be shocked by the coverage of this important health news. I noticed, with each new story that I read, how prevalent two recurring issues were regarding the media's presentation of the information.
First of all, the majority of news organizations led with a new recommendation that infants should share a room with their parents for a year. Yes - this was a new recommendation and one that, perhaps, will probably generate interest with new parents. However, the report has a total of 19 recommendations all of which are important to work towards the goal of creating a safe sleeping environment. For all of the news outlets to lead with the same one leaves the other 18 unnoticed. What about not smoking, using a pacifier, immunizations, firm sleep surfaces, etc.?
Another aspect of the coverage that I noticed was even more egregious. One of the recommendations that falls into the "A-level" (meaning the most evidence to support) is that the media be more responsible. It reads, "Media and manufacturers should follow safe sleep guidelines in their messaging and advertising."
We all know that sleeping babies with fuzzy blankets look cozy and that stuffed animals are cute. But, it's neither safe nor acceptable to portray an unsafe sleeping environment when marketing baby products. When marketing images were analyzed, more than one-third of sleeping infants and two-thirds of infant sleep environments portrayed either unsafe sleep positions (ie. on their belly) and/or environments.
Even more upsetting were the photos associated with the news stories that covered the new SIDS recommendations. Perversely, they were not doing what the SIDS recommendations say - that the media needs to portray safe sleeping environments. As an example, here are a few - one image after another with babies on their bellies, in bed with parents, under loose blankets and with crib bumpers.
Come on guys - we have to do better than this. We have a responsibility to parents and infants to make the depiction of a baby on its back, in a bare crib, with only one fitted sheet, the new image that is associated with a sleeping infant. Because there is nothing cozy about SIDS and we all have to work together toward the goal of safe sleeping environments for all children.
Note: Slate has since changed their photo associated with their coverage of the SIDS recommendations to one that portrays a safe sleeping environment.