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Co-sleeping Controversy

An alarming co-sleeping ad stirs nationwide debate.

Is co-sleeping with your baby as dangerous as letting him or her sleep with a knife? The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Health Department would like you to believe so.

The city recently released a public service announcement that depicted a baby sleeping in an adult bed with a knife tucked under a big white fluffy blanket.  Coupled with the photo are the words "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous."

As shocking as the image is, almost more shocking are the staggering rates of infant deaths from co-sleeping in Milwaukee. Ten Milwaukee babies died in 2011 while sleeping in bed with their parents.

Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker is aware of how unsettling the ad is. From the Journal Sentinel,

"Is it shocking? Is it provocative?" asked Baker, the health commissioner.

"Yes. But what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better (infant death) rates than Milwaukee."

Milwaukee's infant mortality rate in 2009 was 10.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births, according to the health department.

For white babies, it was 5.4. The rate for black babies was nearly three times as high: 14.1.

The ad was produced to call attention to a campaign aimed at reducing infant death rates. There is a phone number for parents who can't afford a crib to call and receive a free Pack 'n Play through the city Health Department's "Cribs for Kids" program.

The disturbing photo has many co-sleeping parents riled up. It inspired a Facebook page called the Campaign Against Milwaukee's Co-Sleeping Campaign. Media coverage of the controversial ad even appeared on The Today Show.

Although I can see that the effort is important for Milwaukee parents, as a mom who had my infant son in the bed with me, I would like to see a campaign that offers education on how to safely co-sleep with your baby. This PSA seems to villianize parents who choose to share a family bed.

Our family always followed the guidelines of Dr. Sears, who recently took to his website to address recent co-sleeping concerns. 

We enjoyed bed sharing and always made sure to place our son on his back to sleep. There were no crevices between the bed and the mattress that could trap his head. We never let our son sleep between us. I always slept between my husband and the baby with a guardrail on the bed. We never went to bed under the influence of alcohol. We didn't sleep on big pillows and we always placed our son on top of our covers.

We saw many benefits from co-sleeping and treasured every sleepy moment in our bed with our son. Trust me, there is nothing sweeter than waking up to your baby's sweet breath blowing gently next to you in bed.

Even though this ad is shocking, I'm glad that it is calling attention to the dangers of unsafe sleeping. Hopefully, parents will become more educated about how to co-sleep responsibly.

Be sure to read this list of Dr. Sear's Safe Co-sleeping Habits before you turn in for the night with your little one. Sleep safe, my fellow mamas! (and you daddies, too!)

Do you think that the ad is going too far? Do you co-sleep with your baby or do you believe that bed sharing is dangerous? Please tell us your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Desire December 08, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Ithink co sleeping is not good! because i watched my mother co sleep with my baby brother everynight when he was born he is no five and refuses to sleep in his own bed , my mother even bought him a bunk bed to make him feel like a big boy but it still didnt work. now my mother says she regrets co sleeping with him but she gets mad when he doesnt want to sleep withher or he wants to go stay with someone. i know what it feels like for her to want him to sleep with her because im 15 and have a son of my own and i would like to die not being able to sleep with christian but im scared that when i sleep i will roll over on top of him at night or he will have SIDS so i will not let him lay in bed with me but i do have his crib in my roomand a night light so he doesnt get to scared!! :OP
gia December 09, 2011 at 04:13 PM
I took several parenting classes and was told by every teacher that the majority of pediatricians around the country recommend to NEVER listen to Dr. Sears. Everything he advocated from timed feeding schedule to the role of a parent is opposite of how a child should be nurtured. I don't mean this rudely, but I recommend you do more research on the professionals you mention in your article.
Leigh Hewett December 10, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Fair enough Gia. For those who might be interested, here is the American Association of Pediatrics stance on Bed sharing and co-sleeping. The information was pulled from this link... http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;105/3/650 Bed sharing or cosleeping may be hazardous under certain conditions.54113–115 • As an alternative to bed sharing, parents might consider placing the infant's crib near their bed to allow for more convenient breastfeeding and parent contact. • If a mother chooses to have her infant sleep in her bed to breastfeed, care should be taken to observe the aforementioned recommendations (nonprone sleep position, avoidance of soft surfaces or loose covers, and avoidance of entrapment by moving the bed away from the wall and other furniture and avoiding beds that present entrapment possibilities). • Adults (other than the parents), children, or other siblings should avoid bed sharing with an infant.* • Parents who choose to bed share with their infant* should not smoke or use substances, such as alcohol or drugs, that may impair arousal.
Leigh Hewett December 10, 2011 at 02:11 AM
This was also pulled from the same document in the footnotes... "It should be noted that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is on record as opposing bed sharing by an infant and an adult, particularly if there is more than 1 adult in the bed. Many cases of infant suffocation have been reported during bed sharing.116 However, it is recognized that a significant portion of the population practices bed sharing between mother and infant as a strategy to facilitate breastfeeding and that the presence of the father in the bed will be common. It is the consensus of the Task Force that there are insufficient data to conclude that bed sharing under carefully controlled conditions is clearly hazardous or clearly safe."
motherof5 August 13, 2012 at 08:42 AM
This all sounds really great.. I guess it all comes down to this: in the event (God forbid) that my 6month old baby boy should accidentally die would I rather him die in a crib or in my arms? I just think as hard as losing a baby would be already I can not even begin to fathom the shame, guilt, and intense depression I would encounter If my baby should die accidentally so close to me or somehow because of me. I think this topic is very hard to deal with because it seems more about which way you want to put your baby to death rather than to sleep. Everyone seems to come back to that more overall SID's deaths occur than accidental death in cosleeping.

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