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Safe sleep, day and night: the experiences of parents regarding infant sleep safety

University of British Columbia
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the third leading cause of death for British Columbian infants younger than one year of age. Sudden unexplained infant death (SUID) is increasing in British Columbia and is linked to unsafe sleep environments. Although guidelines on how to place infants to sleep safely have been developed, no Canadian studies and a paucity of qualitative studies have explored the views and experiences of the parents regarding infant sleep safety. I used a qualitative description design to obtain 14 mothers’ experiences with infant sleep safety. The mothers resided in the Greater Vancouver region. The development of the core theme, the Mothers’ Infant Sleep Safety Cycle, described mothers’ experiences with infant sleep safety as a cyclical and continuous process from the prenatal period and throughout the first six months of their infants’ lives and beyond. There are five segments in this cyclical process: mothers’ expectations of sleep safety, struggles with reality as opposed to maternal visions, modifications of expectations, provisions of rationale for choices and developmental shifts in views of capabilities. Despite mothers’ awareness of the risk of SIDS and SUID and their original intentions to adhere to the sleep safety guidelines, mothers felt compelled to modify their infants’ sleeping arrangements as they struggled with infants’ sleeping and crying challenges, as well as their own sleep deprivation. Mothers’ experiences with infant sleep safety were influenced by four primary factors: perceptions of everyone’s needs, familial influences, attitudes and judgments from outsiders, and resource availability and accessibility. Based on the study findings I suggested nursing implications for clinical practice, education and research starting in the prenatal period and into the postnatal period, in terms of supporting and assisting mothers in implementing plans to follow sleep safety principles while managing their infants’ sleeping and crying challenges as well as their own sleep deprivation, day and night.

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