Internet falls short with baby sleep advice

August 23, 2012

About half of all information on the Internet about safe infant sleep practices is incorrect or irrelevant, according to new research. How can you help parents find the right half? More >>

About half of all information on the Internet regarding safe infant sleep practices is either irrelevant or inconsistent with recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Researchers from South Carolina and Washington, DC, plugged 13 key phrases reflecting AAP recommendations for sleep safety into the search engine Google and analyzed the first 100 Web sites appearing for each phrase.

They found that 43.5% of the 1,300 Web sites provided information that was accurate and consistent with AAP recommendations; however, more than one-quarter (28.1%) provided inaccurate counsel, and another 28.4% provided irrelevant material.

The search terms yielding the highest quality advice included “infant cigarette smoking” (82% of sites providing accurate information), “infant sleep position” (74% accurate), and “infant sleep surface” (73% accurate). All the remaining 10 search terms yielded less than 58% accurate Web sites. The terms that produced the least accurate or relevant information included “pacifier infant” (14% accurate), “infant home monitors” (18%), and “infant co-sleeping” (20%).

Other search terms, in descending order of reliability, included “infant sleep bedding,” “infant overheating,” “safe infant bedding,” “pacifier sleeping,” “infant room sharing,” “infant bed sharing,” and “SIDS products.”

Government Web sites were the most reliable, producing 80.9% of accurate Web sites, followed by organization Web sites (72.5%). Company or interest groups, news, sponsored links, and educational Web sites came next and produced similar rates of accurate Web sites (between 50.6% and 52.4%). Blogs, sites posted by individuals, and retail product review Web sites were the least accurate.

The researchers say that pediatricians need to be aware of the extent to which parents rely on the Internet for information on the topic of sleep safety for infants and, thus, the extent to which they may need to correct misinformation.

If you are looking for accurate and relevant Internet information to provide to parents, consider AAP’s HealthyChildren.org Web site for advice on safe infant sleep practices.

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