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.