Infants requiring neonatal intensive care are often placed prone during their acute illness. After hospital discharge the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends supine sleep position to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Little is known about nursing knowledge and practice regarding best sleep positions for infants as they transition from neonatal intensive care to home.
To explore and describe neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses' knowledge and practice in the NICU, and to determine the content of parent instruction regarding infant sleep position at discharge.
This survey was conducted in 2 phases. In Phase I, a questionnaire was designed and completed by 157 neonatal nurses currently practicing in Level III and IV NICUs in the state of New York. After content analysis of responses and item revisions, a panel of experts reviewed questionnaire items. Phase II involved completion of the final questionnaire by 95 NICU nurses in 4 additional hospitals. The combined results of Phase I and II are reported.
Of 514 questionnaires distributed, 252 (49%) were completed and analyzed. During NICU hospitalization, nurse respondents identified prone position as the best general sleep position for preterm infants (65%) followed by either prone or side-lying (12%). The nurses' assessment of the infants' readiness for supine sleep position at the time of NICU discharge varied. Most nurses responded that preterm infants were ready to sleep supine anytime (29%), close to discharge (13%), when maintaining their body temperature in an open crib (25%), between 34 to 36 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA) (15%), after 37 weeks PMA (13%), and when the infant's respiratory status was stable (6%). Typical sleep positions chosen for full-term infants in the NICU were supine (40%), side or supine (30%), all positions (18%), side (8%), prone or side (3%), and prone (1%). Frequently cited reasons to place full-term infants to sleep prone were: reflux (45%), upper airway anomalies (40%), respiratory distress (29%), inconsolability (29%), and to promote development (17%). At NICU discharge, 52% of nurses instructed parents to place their infants in the supine position for sleep. The most common nonsupine sleep positions recommended by nurses at discharge were either supine or side (38%), and exclusive side positioning (9%).
Nearly 95% of respondents identified a nonsupine sleep position as optimal for hospitalized preterm infants. Further, only 52% of neonatal nurses routinely provide discharge instructions that promote supine sleep positions at home. This study suggests that nursing self-reports of discharge teaching practices are inconsistent, and in some cases in direct conflict with the national “Back to Sleep” recommendations, which emphasize that the supine position is the safest position for healthy full-term and preterm infants after hospital discharge.
1St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center, Syracuse, NY
2Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY
3University of Buffalo School of Nursing, Buffalo, NY.
Address reprint requests to Christine Aris, RN, CNNP, St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center, 301 Prospect Ave, Neonatal Office Room 4621, Syracuse, NY 13203. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org