Shocking Anti Co-sleeping Campaign Unleashed

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Early this month, in what can only be described as a total loss of rational thought, Milwaukee city officials unveiled a new 100% anti co-sleeping, “safe-sleep” advertising campaign. The campaign consists of ads containing adorable little babies sleeping alongside shiny butcher knives, and the tagline, “Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous.” Seriously? Moments before the ad campaign launched, the Milwaukee medical examiner’s office announced that a 7-week-old baby had been found dead in Milwaukee “After co-sleeping.” According to reports, the baby was the ninth Milwaukee baby to die in 2011 while in an unsafe sleep environment. Mayor Tom Barrett, who received the news of the death right before the launch of the campaign, noted that the ad is not too shocking because it may take a “Raw message to get the point across that babies must sleep alone, on their backs, in their own cribs.” Barrett went on to say that, “Co-sleeping deaths are the most preventable form of infant death in this community.” It’s extremely sad news that nine babies have died in this community. However, co-sleeping alone cannot be attributed to sleep-related baby deaths, which is what this campaign would have you believe.

Does this anti co-sleeping campaign go too far?

  • 317 Votes Yes - safe co-sleeping practices should be promoted instead of using scare tactics
  • 41 Votes No - co-sleeping is dangerous - this campaign is right on target
  • 11 Votes I'm not sure if I disagree or agree with co-sleeping

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No Proof that Co-sleeping Causes SIDS

According to the City of Milwaukee Health Department, in Milwaukee around 20% of infant deaths are attributable to a combination of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)  and Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy (SUDI). The Health Department goes on to say that, “Of these deaths the majority die in an unsafe sleep environment.” This new campaign is linking co-sleeping to a reduced risk of SIDS which is irresponsible and wrong. For one thing, although SIDS is less murky than years ago, no research yet has been able to prove for sure what causes SIDS. Most research says that SIDS deaths likely happen due to a combination of physical and sleep environmental factors, but again, we aren’t positive. Co-sleeping has been linked to SIDS in terms of “unsafe sleep environments” but research points out that there are many physical factors associated with SIDS deaths as well, including brain abnormalities, low birth weight, respiratory infections and other health issues.

Government figures report about 2,000 SIDS deaths per year and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports an average of 64 baby deaths per year that can be attributed to co-sleeping. Those figures tell us that less than 4% of those SIDS deaths could even possibly be linked to co-sleeping. However, be very aware that almost all of these reported co-sleeping deaths were linked to unsafe co-sleeping practices, not co-sleeping in general or SIDS. That said, it’s unreasonable to say that SIDS and co-sleeping are absolutely linked.

In fact, in many Asian cultures co-sleeping is the norm, almost across the board, and these Asian families have significantly lower rates of SIDS deaths than American or European families who place their babies in cribs more often. Additionally, research shows that Asian families who begin to acclimate to western non-co-sleeping ways have SIDS rates that are far higher than other, more traditional Asian families. Research also shows that breastfed babies are less likely to die of SIDS, which supports co-sleeping as co-sleeping mamas are more likely to breastfeed. Plenty of other research shows that co-sleeping is not only healthy for children, but also that co-sleeping actually may help reduce the risk of SIDS not enhance risks.

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2 Responses to “Shocking Anti Co-sleeping Campaign Unleashed”

  1. shaybocks says:

    These ads only make me want to co-sleep with my baby even more. There is so much misinformation out there – or rather propaganda. They should be putting out ads on how to safely co-sleep with your baby so that these deaths can be prevented. We proudly co-sleep (safely) and will continue to do so until our babies are ready to be on their own.

  2. Beth Shea says:

    Jennifer, thanks for your well-rounded article on this topic. These ads are further proof that for some reason our culture and government are built on a foundation of fear mongering. Also astonishing to me are the dozens of ways we are damaging the next generation, but because these efforts are backed by the government and stand to make money, they will never be criticized. Shame on the people who decided to put forth such irresponsible ads, when their time and efforts would have been so much better spent focusing on what parents SHOULD do, not what they shouldn’t do to raise a healthy child. Signed, a very happy co-sleeping parent of two vibrant and healthy, and ALIVE! co-sleeping children.

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