Over three in four stock photos of sleeping babies show them in an unsafe environment, according to a study.
The BabyCenter analyzed 500 photos from Shutterstock, iStock, and Getty Images, and 77 percent of them were found to be in a position that puts them at risk for sudden unexpected infant death (SUID).
The study found that the most common safety issue was a baby sleeping with something in their crib, such as a blanket (35 percent), a pillow (18 percent), or soft toys (16 percent). Babies are also frequently shown sleeping outside of a crib or bassinet, such as on a soft surface (16 percent) or an adult bed (12 percent). In 12 percent of photos, a baby is shown sleeping on their stomach or side.
The above resting positions go against the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines on safe sleeping.
“Major media outlets may use these images for stories about baby sleep — and when they do so, they risk creating a false sense of security about practices that have been linked to sleep-related deaths,” says Olufunke Afolabi-Brown, M.D., a board-certified pediatric sleep physician, and leader of BabyCenter’s virtual infant sleep course.
“I suspect that most outlets using these photos don’t realize they’re exhibiting unsafe sleep practices. But unfortunately, it sets this expectation that ‘Well, if the reputable companies that are displaying these photos are using them, then it must be okay.’”
The study’s authors say that the problem isn’t just limited to stock photography sites, images of infants sleeping on social media also regularly display bad practices.
“I was surprised to find just how common unsafe sleep imagery is,” says Dr. Brown.
The BabyCenter have provided an album of royalty-free images that show babies sleeping in a safe environment.
It’s easy to see why photographers may lean toward picturing a baby sleeping which goes against AAP guidelines.
The photos that the BabyCenter has provided pretty much just show a sprog and a sleeping mat. Most photographers will not think twice to add cute elements to their shot, such as a blanket, a cuddly toy, or even a tender moment between parent and child.
Many of the authors of these stock photos will likely have been unaware that they are normalizing what is considered to be a dangerous practice.