For decades, prevailing wisdom stated that we should put babies to sleep on their stomachs so that they wouldn't choke on their own spit-up in their sleep.
Then, lo-and-behold, data suggested that putting babies to sleep on their back reduced deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). BY HALF. Data disproved convention AND improved public health dramatically and cheaply as the American Academy of Pediatrics rolled out the Back To Sleep campaign to inform parents about this research and best practices for bedtime.
Now, the law of unintended consequences: Wee little babies are developing flat heads! My own son did (he is the cutie in the helmet), and required a helmet and physical therapy to correct the condition. More on the flat head (technical name: plagioencephaly) via the USAToday summary of a study from Pediatrics.
I think that the SIDS reduction rates far, far outweighs the possibility of developing plagioencephaly. However, I think this could be a good example for introducing your students to the importance of empirically studying things that seem obvious (like putting a baby to sleep on their stomach), collecting data to demonstrate that interventions work (see the graph above), but always be aware of the possibility of unintended consequences following interventions (per the Pediatrics article).
|My son, who wore a helmet for four months (and attended PT for 10 months) to correct a flat spot on the back of his head.|