Hey, Milwaukee: co-sleeping doesn't have to be dangerous #media-watch#babies#co-sleeping November 16 | Stephanie Kaloi If you haven't seen it yet, the city of Milwaukee is running a pretty interesting campaign against co-sleeping: Bevan Baker, Milwaukee commissioner of health said, "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." Ok, fair enough. Or… is it? My issue with the ads isn't whether or not co-sleeping is safe, because as we've seen (both on Offbeat Mama and all over the internet), it can be if you take the right steps. My problem is that instead of launching a campaign to educate parents about how to safely co-sleep, Milwaukee thought it would be a good idea to liken co-sleeping to putting a knife in the bed next to your baby. I do NOT want to talk about whether or not co-sleeping is ok for you (we believe it's a personal decision and trust each family to do their own research). But I AM curious to know: what do you guys think Milwaukee could have done differently to teach its residents about co-sleeping? Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Stephanie Kaloi I am the former editor of Offbeat Families, and owner/photographer at Stephanie Kaloi Photography in Portland, OR. PREVIOUS Super adorable downtown Dallas family photos featuring Run-DMC and colorful accessories NEXT Confronting the terror of being a stay-at-home parent Toggle comments [ 55 ] The main thing I think they did wrong here is to ignore the reasons WHY people co-sleep. It seems that the creators of this campaign assumed that everyone who co-sleeps is either ignorant or too poor to afford a crib. If they're speaking to people who have done their research and made an informed decision to co-sleep, then it would make a lot more sense to do what you said and educate people on how to do it safely. 12 agree To me, it makes sense to educate everyone — if you're too poor to afford a crib, you need to know how to safely co-sleep with your baby. When my son was born (in Portland, OR) there was a video that came on every 2 hours in the hospital and you had to watch it. Part of it covered safely co-sleeping. As someone who planned to co-sleep, I thought I "knew everything" before then, but it was pretty illuminating. I have no clue if Milwaukee has something like this, but I think it could also be effective to talk about co-sleeping in sex ed classes, when you're talking about pregnancy, if it's really as big of an issue as it seems it is. I'm not very knowledgeable about Milwaukee or how to effectively educate a large group of people along various lines of race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, but to me.. fear tactics aren't the best way. Especially since they tried something like this in 2010 and it still didn't produce the results they were hoping for. 3 agree I definitely agree; the reason I mentioned about affording a crib is because the ad specifically notes, "If you can't afford a crib, call…" To me, that implies that the campaign creators have a misconception about why people are co-sleeping in the first place, and that they could "solve" co-sleeping if they just gave everyone a free crib. 1 agrees Yep, that was one of my issues, too. I wish I'd been paying more attention, but on the news this morning they said that is who the ad is targeting–people who are uninformed or too poor. If you notice the add doesn't specifically say "co-sleeping" it says that it can be dangerous for infants to sleep in adult bed and then offers help to those who can't afford a crib (a free Pack n' play). I wish they could have done this in way that doesn't seem to imply "ALL" co-sleeping is unsafe however. 2 agree I agree. I've been meaning to write an article about my transition from judgmental to cosleeping. When I used to read about people choosing to do it here, I would get angry "This people are intentionally choosing to put their child at risk!" I had it all planned; my cradle next to the bed would give me all the convenience of co-sleeping with out the danger. Then I had my very clingy newborn. Who COULD NOT sleep unless I was holding him. So I ended up co-sleeping out of necessity. But I kept telling myself, every night, that I wouldn't. The result? I didn't do my proper research until after a big family fight – and I'd been doing a lot of very dangerous things thinking that they would make it safer (like putting him on a pillow). I really wish, rather than just saying "Don't do this" the medical industry had said "We recommend you don't do this, but if you're going to, here's the safest way to." I think the above ad is going to be about as effective as abstinence only sex ed. 9 agree Yes. I really wish that we approached a lot more things, especially but not exclusively around pregnancy and parenting, with the attitude ""We recommend you don't do this, but if you're going to, here's the safest way to." Risk reduction ftw. 7 agree I think they could have made a quite eye-catching and less shitstorm-creating ad campaign by going with a tag line like, "You wouldn't bungee jump without knowing what you're doing, right? Why should co-sleeping be any different?" and then a URL for an informational page listing pros and cons. Ok, ok, MY example isn't all that great, but that's why I'm not in advertising. You get the idea. 8 agree Totally! Why a knife? That's a slap in the face to parents who do know how to co-sleep safely, and it's just going to freak out parents who don't. I get that they want it to freak out people, but scaring people without teaching them WHY you're trying to do it.. just sounds all kinds of bad to me. 2 agree *heavy sigh*. This is like "just say No to drugs" and abstinence only sex education. Telling people no rather than giving them a safe alternative pretty much just ensures that more people will do it anyway and then, because they don't want to get in trouble, lie about it. That, of course does not give them the option to ask without fear how to sleep with their kids safely. ( safe meaning sober, non smoking, in a bed not on a couch or chair and without bedding that can smother) It also bears mentioning that deaths that occur due to incorrect cosleeping or cosleeping accidents are NOT SIDS deaths. They should not be lumped in and counted as such! 9 agree As someone on my facebook stated, "Very important PSA: PLEASE do not sleep with babies who have giant knives… They WILL kill you so they can have the bed all to themselves." Scare tactics for the lose! 53 agree I bet Leno uses something to this effect in his monologue this evening. Dammit, now I have to watch Leno and his chin just to see what sort of comedic fodder they make of this. First, I would like to clear the misnomer; co-bedding/bed-sharing, what this ad is against, is different than co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is widely defined as sleeping with your baby in the same room, but not in the same bed. As for suggestions, instead of using a scare-tactic, they should have posted statistics that could be backed up, such as the mortality rate of infants who sleep with their parents and the common causes of death within that statistic. Parents should be able to make their own decision and calculate the risk like they do when they drive with their baby, leave their child with someone else, or any other every-day (but potentially dangerous) event. 2 agree Oh, wait does this mean I'm not supposed to leave my deboning knife in with my baby? HOW WILL IT FEND OFF THE TERRORISTS?! *headdesk* 13 agree If you don't give your baby the deboning knife, the terrorists win! 1 agrees The story about the 9 month old who died is not even about co-sleeping per say. She was supposedly left to sleep on a couch with a 3 year old and somehow died from a skull fracture. Using that story as an example of bed sharing doesn't really make sense. It's about neglect or abuse. I remember having to watch one dvd in the hospital. It was about filling out the birth certificate. Before we left, a nurse sat down with us and went through a lot of infant care information, and asked us questions about how we planned on sleeping. Told us to not shake him… (Which make me start bawling btw) I think if the "made" every coupel sit downt with someone before being discharged it would be very beneficial. 4 agree I'm sad they have to tell people to not shake babies. Some 'obvious' warnings are funny, like 'food will be hot after microwaving' and you think, "How could someone not know that? LOL!" The not shaking babies one, you think, "How could someone not know that? :*(" 2 agree To me, that's another example of how not educating people can have dramatic and serious results. You don't know it if no one has ever told you. 3 agree Yes! Personally I do know how to handle a baby, but maybe someone wouldn't know that it can actually do a lot of damage. She explained the anatomy of the infant brian and what would actually happen to them; why its different from an adult etc. So, like others have said, maybe find a way to communicate safe sleeping habits, and why certain sleeping habits are not safe etc. I guess, I'm still curious who they think they are targeting with this type of message. If they want a bilboard, they could do a series of messages with bits of advice. "Don't sleep next to an infant if you have been drinking/doing drugs/taking sleeping pills…." or something like that… This is a trite example compared to baby shaking, I know, but I remember that I had the world's meanest nurse in the mother/baby ward. My son had to go to the NICU for a little while and she refused to let me leave the bed to visit him. She practically stood in the door. She was so condescending. I kept saying, "I need to see the baby; I don't even believe I have a baby right now," and physically I was FINE to walk to the elevator — it had already been a few hours. Anyway, once our baby finally came in (with a paci in mouth that he acquired in the NICU, grrrr…..), we picked him up to hug him and noticed he had pooped. I said, "well I guess we need to change him!" and she said, sarcastically, "well I guess so" and walked out. It just really rubbed me the wrong way. First, it was a nasty meconium poop, and fortunately we knew what to expect but what if we had not? Second, what if we didn't even know how to change a diaper? I think A LOT of people who will be great parents become parents without ever having changed a diaper. She could have asked if we had any questions, etc. She was just mean and needed to retire. She was also useless with breastfeeding advice and almost belittled me for my concerns, and my mother actually went to the nurse's station and asked if somebody helpful could come visit, and later on mean nurse returned and bragged that she had breastfed four children. But she never helped me. Parents needs more support — about car seat safety, breastfeeding, baby shaking, co-sleeping, etc. It shouldn't be that hard to figure out. And feeding! I know a lactation consultant (not where I delivered) who always spends an hour not just with moms who plan to nurse but also moms who plan from the start to formula feed, and she goes through tips for them. That's so important — and not just assuming people know how much to give, etc. 2 agree That's TERRIBLE. You're experience is so opposite mine; it horrifies me that you had to deal with that. I hope you left some really detailed reviews for that hospital so that other new mothers are warned. 3 agree This made me kind of emotional to read, and it reminds me so much of my own experience. The midwives who delivered my baby were lovely and funny and kind… but the postnatal midwives were so callous. One in particular kept rolling her eyes when I asked her anything. At one point she left me waiting 5 hours for some painkillers. Another kept trying to get me to switch to bottle-feeding, rather than give me any help with breastfeeding. (Tip — in the end I realised that the midwifery students who were in the ward on placements were MUCH nicer because they were less overworked and jaded. They would make conversation, and squee over my baby, and actually remember when I asked for things like a change of sheets. So my advice to anyone going into hospital is to ask the students for help whenever possible!) 1 agrees The crazy thing is that this has been told to parents for 20 years, possibly a little longer. I know this because when I was 5, I was part of a state-wide campaign (along with my school choir), run by the Children's Hospital, to educate the public on shaking babies. We were on TV, it was very glamourous (lulz). That being said, the "how could someone not know" is almost irrelevant. I've known about this issue my entire life, and as much as I sit here, 31 weeks pregnant and think "My god, I could NEVER shake my beautiful child", the reality is that you never know WHAT you'll do when you're alone, sleep deprived, maybe suffering through post-natal depression, with a screaming, unreasonable little person in your arms who can't communicate what the problem is. In my opinion, it's not about knowing not to shake your baby, it's about knowing how to cope when you FEEL like you want to shake him/her. 16 agree Yep. The video we had to watch in the hospital said "If you feel like shaking your baby, put them down in the crib and walk into another room where you can't hear them until you calm down." Much more useful. 1 agrees I am a Wisco Mama and live directly between MKE and Madison and I am constantly amazed by the diversity of our state. While I am a home birthing offbeat mama raising my kids rural I grew up in the suburbs of MKE and spend a couple night a month in the city. We truly have it all in WI! This ad is insane propaganda but I will admit babies seem to die on the news like every other day in MKE …it is sad but scaring people isn't the way to get the message across; though Education is the real answer it would be difficult with the audience they are trying to reach. I just hate to think that the rest of the country to think less of WI because of this… 1 agrees I live in Wisconsin too! We have all those great things you mentioned AND easy access to cheese curds. This place is awesome. I'm just wondering, is infant mortality highest in Milwaukee and that's why this message is so city specific? This seems like it would be a great message everywhere, if it were executed a lot better. I live in Milwaukee and these ads are placed specifically on public transportation- there is actually a pretty big divide between poor and rich – a literal geographic divide. It also runs along racial boundaries as well. There aren't a lot of resources for inner city families, which leads to a lot of struggling situations; poverty, malnutrition, abuse, etc. I love Milwaukee, but it is an unfortunate truth. I agree with other commenters. My big problem with the ad is that it relies entirely on shock and fear tactics and doesn't include any actual facts or stats on co-sleeping or any information about why it is or isn't safe. 3 agree I wasn't able to watch the entire Today show segment before leaving for work this AM, but Anne Curry said something along the lines that the majority of people in the world (outside the US) co-sleep out of necessity. As we all know the world population just topped 7 billion so…. I doubt co-sleeping is as lethal as this ad makes it seem. A less inflammatory and more informative approach (along with a clearer idea of who it's directed at) would have helped. 2 agree Not being a mother yet, I have no idea about co-sleeping. However, I can say 1 thing: I like the help given for those who cannot afford a crib- it is a good idea for many many reasons, if not this one. 1 agrees I definitely agree with you — the only problem I have with that aspect is that it's implying that NOT putting your child in a crib is dangerous and going to lead to the death of your kid. Hence, the need for greater education. 1 agrees "But what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better [infant death] rates than Milwaukee." Do those places all use cribs? I doubt it. 4 agree "But what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better [infant death] rates than Milwaukee." There is a huge issue with this statement right here, do they honestly believe that this is true BECAUSE of co-sleeping? I've known about this statistic for quite a while, but I also know that much of it can be attributed to about a million OTHER things that have absolutely nothing at all to do with co-sleeping. America has this issue with letting parents raise their own children, it's like we are constantly being told here [it is not so in most other countries, unique to America] that we cannot do it and cannot be trusted to try. It's in everything here, from the attitude surrounding pregnancy [being treated like a disease] and birth [just TRY and have a peaceful drug-free birth without paying out the nose and being criticized like hell for it] all the way to negative home schooling attitudes and beyond. This is just another good example of that very self-righteous, detached ideology that we are fed here. It's so disappointing to see an official campaign handled this way, with such judgmental overtones and presumptuous statements. I would equate co-sleeping with driving in the car or taking a walk in the city, it CAN be a dangerous activity if you aren't careful and aware of the risk, but otherwise it is a perfectly normal, natural thing to do. If done correctly, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Therefore, like everyone else is saying, people should be taught how to do it safely and correctly, not scared out of their minds about it. ***Editing this comment because when I initially responded, I was thinking in a very country-wide mindset… I'm not aware of exactly what the infant death rate is in Milwaukee or what the cause of that death rate really is, so I suppose I shouldn't be too quick to judge the ad… I do feel that it is still not good advertising or marketing in general, and has been poorly executed. You should never assume that people are 'too uneducated' to understand a simple fact/statistic. Bryn, I totally see where you're coming from with "America has this issue with letting parents raise their own children, it's like we are constantly being told here [it is not so in most other countries, unique to America] that we cannot do it and cannot be trusted to try. It's in everything here, from the attitude surrounding pregnancy [being treated like a disease] and birth [just TRY and have a peaceful drug-free birth without paying out the nose and being criticized like hell for it] all the way to negative home schooling attitudes and beyond. This is just another good example of that very self-righteous, detached ideology that we are fed here. It's so disappointing to see an official campaign handled this way, with such judgmental overtones and presumptuous statements." However, as someone who WAS homeschooled and attachment parented herself, with parents who made serious sacrifices to live on one income, the USA isn't nearly as bad on this front as a lot of places. I live in Austria, and though these European social democracies seem/are family friendly in some ways, such as offering longer maternity leave, they also have way less tolerance for the individual, specifically a parent's right to raise her children as she sees fit (not considered a right here). For example, homeschooling is extremely rare and almost impossible, not sending your baby to daycare around 9 mo is shocking, and you can be forced to vaccinate your child. Just sayin, before I lived here I thought that the US was super uptight and Europe was full of crunchy granola liberalism, but I have really come to appreciate a lot of the US's respect for individual liberty and parents' rights. 1 agrees Follow the target audience for this ad. They are not going after well meaning educated parents. The issue within the city sadly falls with the more poverty stricken areas. Living in Milwaukee, I wish is were as easy as saying just educate them. I have friends who work at Children's Hospital here, and the stories they hear from parents is just sickening. They try to help but many times people just don't care. They try to offer pack n' plays but mothers won't even take them. Honestly, the amount of deaths they have of guardians not properly caring for their child we are willing to try anything. You're also talking about a failing school system where the average 8th grader can only read at a 3rd grade level. Showing statistics won't help because then people would have to read and understand them. It was either United Way or March of Dimes who ran a visiual "Healthy Baby" campaign that generated positive reactions. It seems like they are trying to use the same visual maner to get this message accross. 5 agree You make an excellent point, Sandy. It can be incredibly frustrating to try to educate people who seemingly have no interest in being educated. The uneducated adults are much, MUCH harder to reach, because they are likely to react negatively to attempts to change their behavior or to provide them with new information. Educating children about these things can actually be the best course of action. Obviously, many of this country's school districts need to be reformed, including Milwaukee's. Good education is as much about teaching people to cultivate their own curiosity and be open to new ways of thinking as it is about reading and math. Education, not advertising, is the key to this and MOST of our societal problems. 1 agrees Alright. Rereading the ad, I find it less offensive. It says that sleeping with your baby "can be" just as dangerous, not "is." I guess the only thing I'd really like to see is a "For more information check out ______." I understand that the demographic they're approaching isn't expected to do any research, but it should at least be an option. 3 agree Instead of cautioning against cribs, 'we' caution against stuffed animals and crib bumpers. But instead of cautioning against co-sleeping while drunk or on a couch, they just caution against all co-sleeping. This doesn't make sense and the research is not on their side. Come on, Milwaukee. You're supposed to be better than that. This video has some good points about co-sleeping and formula: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2010/05/05/fox-news-video-on-bed-sharing/#.TsQigHLkWPQ 2 agree What eats me up about this is that a majority of the babies in those under developed countries that Beaven Baker mentions probably co-sleep. Honestly, I don't think there needs to be an ad campaign at all. It should be something handled by doctors, WIC advisors and the like. A face to face discussion. That's how to best educate people on how to safely cosleep. This is propaghanda. I did some poking around and there just isn't evidence to connect poverty to a lack of crib to co-sleeping to infant mortality. I think this is a case of "true, true and unrelated." Yes, co-sleeping *could* be dangerous (but of course doesn't have to be.) Yes, poor women in urban areas may lack essentials to help them raise their babies. But that doesn't mean we have a cause-effect situation. And this preys on the kind of new-mom fear mongering that seems to always backfire due to lack of nuance (cf. vaccines, breast-feeding, diapers, etc etc etc) 1 agrees I totally agree. This is an odd comparison but bear with me: it reminds me of abstinence-only sex "education" that aims to just scare teenagers out of having sex… then if they do (which they probably will), they haven't a clue how to protect themselves, because even talking about protection was taboo. Co-sleeping is similar in that there are safe and unsafe ways to do it, and it's far more helpful to teach safe ways of co-sleeping than just try to terrify people out of doing it. I would be VERY surprised if this campaign has any significant effect on co-sleeping related infant mortality. I also find myself skeptical of how strong a link they really found between SIDS and co-sleeping, and whether co-sleeping is the biggest black- or poverty-related infant mortality risk, but without more info I'll leave all that aside. 1 agrees Ok I know this comment is low in the chain but I will put my two cents in! This sort of anti co-sleeping campaign is discussed in this great power point from http://www.uppitysciencechick.com/sleep.html Check out the evidence based research behind co-sleeping and what motivates public health departments to put up ads like this. Basically, it boils down to wanting to send ONE message out there without dealing with the motivations behind co-sleeping. Personally, I think it is not effective at all, since previous research has shown that people are co-sleeping DESPITE warnings and are not doing it because they can't afford a crib or are poor. The reasons range from cultural to facilitating breastfeeding. I agree with everyone who said people need to be taught safe co-sleeping instead of simply saying NO. I really recommend checking out this link since it will elucidate why some people don't advocate co-sleeping and help you argue your point if you choose to co-sleep and want to defend your position. One thought: I've read and heard from various people that occasional alcohol is no big deal in pregnancy. (In the better safe than sorry vein, I will say I have abstained.) A friend of mine who is a doctor and had an occasional glass of wine said the research has been done on women doing multiple shots of hard liquor a day, not an occasional beer or glass of wine. However, it is too hard for public health officials and medical professionals to teach a moderate approach — too confusing, too much area for false interpretation, etc — so it is easier to just say "no alcohol, period." But truth be told, some of the crap we put into our bodies every day in the form of food is likely more dangerous than four ounces of wine once a week. I think it is perhaps the same with co-sleeping: it seems too confusing to explain the nuances so a "no no no" approach is used instead. I agree that this is ineffective as it doesn't square with reality for so many families. In contrast, I guess there's no real harm in having no wine in one's entire pregnancy! 3 agree Scare tactics don't work – seriously, how many people decided to quit smoking after seeing ads of people on life support or black lungs? Far more effective would be the marketing scheme that attempts to discover why cosleeping is more dangerous in Milwalkee than elsewhere? Is it drunk moms and dads rolling over on babies, is it mattresses that are too soft, is it parents who smoke and cosleep. Demonizing cosleeping rather than educating is a waste of money. 1 agrees Unfortunately I think this ad does exactly what its mean to..people are noticing, people are becoming more informed and researching co-sleeping… as a person who previously lived in Milwaukee and a two time Co-Sleeping mama it's needed. Milwaukee has tried multiple tactics to try to make it clear to mothers they need to be informed…during my last brief stint of living there I there were 5 publicized deaths of infants and this was during a 3 month period…again these were the only publicized ones. This is a misleading campaign, unless at least 10 children die in Milwaukee every year from sleeping next to butcher knives. I understand the idea behind it, but you can't really just make up statistics because it's fun. you obviously do not understand the meaning of the ad… no statistic in regards to knives are mentioned..it's not misleading it's again correct based upon Milwaukee. I unfortunately like others have mentioned don't think it has to do with the cold – a large handful were due to drunk/drugged parents and lack of childcare…one woman actually rolled onto her baby suffocating it and leaving the body there until 2 days later. It's got people talking, it's got people researching and looking at the benefits and cons of co-sleeping and it's a genius ad. They should really be doing a campaign against SIDS and other risk increasing behaviors like smoking. Or maybe things like don't sleep with your baby if you are drunk. Or maybe even educate people about co-sleeping in better ways. My youngest was born at Stanford and they had signs everywhere telling new moms to co-sleep because it helps with breastfeeding. Worlds apart. As far as Im aware, Stanford is quite a well-off area, whereas Milwaukee isn't. Stanford is actually just a few miles from the city of East Palo Alto, which is incredibly impoverished. Having grown up in WI myself, and grown up really, really poor in really, really cold houses, I have to wonder if part of the issue with co-sleeping in poor households in a cold climate has to do with too many blankets — and suffocation. I slept under a layer of four to six quilts growing up, and I can't imagine how babies in similar households couldn't potentially get stuck under blankets. Our son slept with us — not just co-sleeping, but bedsharing — from the first night he was born, and we never, ever came remotely close to rolling on him, pinning an arm, etc. It just doesn't happen for the majority of parents, just as you don't fall out of bed at night or roll over onto your spouse . . . I know that's an oversimplification, but it was our experience. However, I read up extensively on bedsharing before our son was born, and I did so much research in part because the practice had been so demonized in mainstream media and literature. As far as the Milwaukee ad is concerned, it appears to me to be a major oversimplification of a multifaceted and difficult problem . . . blaming the (poor) mom/parents is always so much easier than actually getting to the root of the myriad issues surrounding poverty, poor living conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, and lack of resources to education and health care, isn't it? 3 agree I didn't even think about the blanket thing, but that makes so much sense. Heavy blankets are one of the things that are strongly advised against if you're going to bedshare, but of course its easier for me to avoid them in August in Georgia that it is for some one in Milwaukee in the winter. I wonder if you just hit the nail on the head for why Milwaukee, specifically, feels that this is an issue. This sort of shock campaign is usually reserved for something like drink driving or cigarettes. My first reaction was of anger, but now I'm wondering if there was a reason to shock us? We are all talking about it, which might have been their aim. One thing I think is funny is that the city of Milwaukee probably promotes breastfeeding and to me breastfeeding and bedsharing go hand in hand (my 6 month old has started waking 2-3 times a night and I take him to bed with me in the spare room because I need to sleep at 4AM so feeding him sitting and awake is not an option). Maybe they should have shown their ad with a bed with drugs and alcohol in it, since they have been associated with most bedsharing deaths. People are going to do it- why not just discuss how to do it safely? (Being careful with pillows, blankets, not letting a heavy sleeper (even if they are your partner) sleep in the bed too, not doing it while you are sick, drunk or on drugs etc). 1 agrees Comments are closed.