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Debate: Outrageous Co-Sleeping Ad Angers Parents

Some public service ads have been running recently that have parents angered at the twisted and warped perceptions being shared. See this image of an ad from Milwaukee Health Department? It compares co-sleeping (with a baby in nearly the worst possible position and sleep situation) with a knife? Not just any knife but a honking-huge-shop-of-horrors knife!

Perhaps I should make it clear first that I co-sleep and have with all my babies. And will with this baby as well. There are so many well-documented benefits to co-sleeping that it just makes sense for me and my family. Dr Sears shares on his website:

Popular media has tried to discourage parents from sharing sleep with their babies, calling this worldwide practice unsafe. Medical science, however, doesn’t back this conclusion. In fact, research shows that co-sleeping is actually safer than sleeping alone.

I will also make very clear right now that my babies do NOT look like the babies in these ads when we co-sleep. Not even close. There is a right way, and wrong way, to do everything. Crib and co-sleeping BOTH included that statement.

A Safer Sleep Situation

According to the University of Notre Dame there are guidelines for sleeping safely with your child if you want to take advantage of the benefits (to both mother and baby) of co-sleeping.

Infants should sleep on their backs, on firm surfaces, on clean surfaces, in the absence of smoke, under light (comfortable) blanketing, and their heads should never be covered.

The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows around the infant and never should an infant be placed to sleep on top of a pillow.

Another great point brought up by PhD in Parenting is to avoid co-sleeping under conditions of extreme exhaustion – which is usually triggered by many tortured night feedings with an infant who is in another room and requires full waking up to tend to. Something I never had to deal with as a co-sleeping, nursing mother. I never reached the point of completely unsafe exhaustion, leading me to bring the baby to bed with me out of desperation, as some parents have told me numerous times that they will do.

Our daughter slept in the crib until I was so exhausted I just couldn’t see straight – then I moved her into bed with us after that.” The lack of planning CREATES an unsafe environment and I can’t help but wonder if campaigns like this contribute to the problem.

Contrast safe sleep recommendations with the ads presented by Milwaukee Health Department! Everything you aren’t supposed to be doing with your baby is done. Faces in soft-smothery pillows. Heavy comforters and plush blankets. Not to mention that knife. The only way this could be worse is to show an actual parent stoned on sleep meds or alcohol and smoking.

If you want to protect babies, teach parents how to sleep safely with their babies in every environment. Encourage breastfeeding and co-sleeping to help lower SIDS. Enact quit-smoking campaigns and remind parents about the dangers of drinking too much.

Many others are speaking out about this horrific and over-the-top ad campaign. Baby’s First Year Babble writer, Danielle says “Shame on Milwaukee!” She says:

But in my personal opinion (which I know most couldn’t care less about of course) I think these ads are in complete bad taste. They are uninformed, biased, and of course simply for the shock value in it all. Instead of helping to educate parents they are trying to guilt them out of certain options for co-sleeping, and sleeping in general, when they can be extremely safe!

Dagmar says “Co-Sleeping is Safe When Practiced Responsibly” and mentions it was an unexpected benefit to her family.

I suspect that is what many parents find — maybe to their surprise or against their prior objections: co-sleeping feels natural, wanting to be close to your child is natural, and it works since everybody gets more rest.

PhD in Parenting says in Fun With AnalogiesHealth authorities need to stop scaring and shaming parents and instead teach them about the pros and cons of different sleep options and about the things that they can do to make their chosen sleep environment as safe as possible.

What do you think about these ads? Are they helpful or harmful? Do they paint an unreasonable picture of what co-sleeping really looks like?

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