"If [advertisers] are going to use babies that are sleeping, it's very important that they need to know and be aware of infant safe sleep practices," Joyner said. "I think everyone should be on one accord."
And even when magazines seek medical approval for articles, they may not apply the same standards to their other content.
Brown, who serves on the medical advisory board for Parents magazine, which was one of the magazines included in the study, said the board pays close attention to the magazine's editorial content but not advertorial or graphical content.
Some advertisers are aware of the challenge posed by attempting to make their products appealing in an image without doing parents a potential disservice -- on the page or with their products.
"Our primary message with our ads is to [...] create an aesthetically pleasing, fun, inspiring room," said Susie Fougerousse, president of Rosenberry Rooms, a high-end baby furniture company. "Style is important, safety is important. Style can't come at the expense of safety -- we're certainly not wanting to promote bad safety standards."
Fougerousse pointed out that featuring a crib with a blanket in it is safe if the blanket were to be used at an age appropriate time, not for a newborn, say, but for an older child.
"Aesthetics are really important when you're trying to show the potential of a room. It wouldn't be very enticing to look at a bare crib with just a sheet," Fougerousse said. "Something might be shown in a picture, but it's up to parents to know what might be used and when."
The simple efficacy of safe sleep habits in infants, especially as it is protective against SIDS, may be the best argument for a consistent message about safe sleep environments and positions across media platforms.
After the AAP first published guidelines on safe infant sleep habits in 1992, the SIDS rate dropped over 50 percent from 1.2 deaths per 1,000 live births that year to 0.57 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"If parents put the baby down on his or her back, and the baby rolls over to stomach, no worry -- that kid is old enough to be past the risk of SIDS," said Dr. Lee Green, professor of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan. "But sleep position affects survival. Hard to take that one too far."
Christine Koh, editor of the parenting resource site bostonmamas.com, said while she would probably flip past advertisements in magazines, some information may leak into the subconscious.
"There is an impact, and we see it with breast feeding versus bottle feeding. People might try [baby] slings more if they see ads," Koh said. "There's a big responsibility for companies who produce products related to sleep [...] and find a creative way to demonstrate things correctly. ... You can still take incredibly adorable pictures of infants when they're on their backs."
ABC News' Courtney Hutchinson contributed to this report.