Knowledge, Attitudes, and Risk for Sudden Unexpected Infant Death in Children of Adolescent Mothers: A Qualitative Study

Michelle Caraballo, Suzuho Shimasaki, Katherine Johnston, Gregory Tung, Karen Albright, Ann C. Halbower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Objective To investigate practices, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding infant sleep among adolescent mothers, a demographic at high risk for sudden unexpected infant death, and to identify novel public health interventions targeting the particular reasons of this population. Study design Seven targeted focus groups including 43 adolescent mothers were conducted at high school daycare centers throughout Colorado. Focus groups were recorded, transcribed, validated, and then analyzed in NVivo 10. Validation included coding consistency statistics and expert review. Results Most mothers knew many of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for infant sleep. However, almost all teens reported bedsharing regularly and used loose blankets or soft bedding despite being informed of risks. Reasons for nonadherence to recommendations included beliefs that babies are safest and sleep more/better in bed with them, that bedsharing is a bonding opportunity, and that bedsharing is easier than using a separate sleep space. The most common justifications for blankets were infant comfort and concern that babies were cold. Participants' decision making was often influenced by their own mothers, with whom they often resided. Participants felt that their instincts trumped professional advice, even when in direct contradiction to safe sleep recommendations. Conclusions Among focus group participants, adherence with safe sleep practices was poor despite awareness of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. Many mothers expressed beliefs and instincts that infants were safe in various unsafe sleep environments. Future study should investigate the efficacy of alternative educational strategies, including education of grandmothers, who have significant influence over adolescent mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-83.e2
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • SIDS
  • SUID
  • accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed
  • adherence
  • bedsharing
  • co-sleeping
  • safe sleep
  • sudden infant death syndrome
  • teenage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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