Co-Sleeping Can Kill Your Baby, Claim These Shocking Ads

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Co-sleeping. It’s a hot debate and one that affects almost every new mom out there. On one hand are those who are all for sharing a bed with their newborn; on the other are those who think it’s totally unsafe, that it can lead to their baby being suffocated, smothered – you get the picture.

The Milwaukee Health Department certainly has a strong opinion on the matter, as evidenced in their latest print campaign. The ads feature an image of sleeping babies looking all angelic and peaceful except for the fact that they’re cuddling a giant butcher knife. The tagline reads: “YOUR BABY SLEEPING WITH YOU CAN BE JUST AS DANGEROUS.” (The smaller copy advises parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs in a crib.)

So, yes, the Milwaukee Health Department is actually saying that your baby sleeping in bed with you is as dangerous as your baby playing with a butcher knife. Talk about fear-mongering! Clearly they want to get people talking and, so far, it’s working. Though whether their sweeping claims are accurate or not is a whole other issue.

Google “co-sleeping” and you’ll find dozens of studies on the topic showing that it’s safe and natural if done properly, with just as many touting it as the one of the most dangerous things you can do to your child. Even pediatricians are divided on the subject (I’ve heard both sides argued within a single practice). I can actually name a handful of friends who are vehemently against it and an equal number who say it saved their sanity during those early days/weeks/months of parenthood.

For me, personally, I was never into co-sleeping but that’s solely because I’m a light sleeper and so every little squeak my first child made caused me to jump up and check that he was okay (call me crazy). Honestly, I preferred a couple of hours of silence with my bed all to myself (save hubby). That said, by the time my second one came along and I was doing the 4 a.m. feed, I’d often just keep him in bed with me ’til sunrise – it was just easier that way. Does that make me a co-sleeper?

As you can see, I’m neither here nor there but I do find these ads to be needlessly fear-mongering. Wouldn’t it be wiser simply to educate parents instead of scaring them? The truth is, most new parents are totally sleep-deprived and desperate for a couple of hours of shut-eye; in many instances, that entails cuddling up to your baby and falling asleep without much thought (half the time it’s not even planned). Better to teach parents about the necessary precautions (removing pillows, refraining from smoking, etc.) than simply stating: “Your child will die if you co-sleep!” I mean, what good does that do?

Even Tom Barrett, the city’s mayor, wondered at one point if the ads were “too provocative and too raw,” according to the Journal Sentinel. But he eventually had a change of heart: “We as adults who love babies love the thought of a baby in bed,” he said. “Cuddling is very nurturing… [But] co-sleeping deaths are the most preventable form of infant death in this community.”

Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker asked, “Is it shocking? Is it provocative? Yes. But what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better [infant death] rates than Milwaukee.” Both Barrett and Barker are working towards reducing Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate to a historic low by 2017 (in 2009 the rate was 10.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births).

Clearly, the Milwaukee Health Department has good intentions; they are attempting to save lives here. But they’d be better off laying off the scare tactics and instead educating parents about how to co-sleep safely, plain and simple