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My name is Kai and I am a cosleeper.

Milwaukee is running a very controversial ad aimed at the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) deaths which they purport to be caused by co-sleeping.  Their are two versions of the ad, one with a caucasian child laying on its side with head propped on a pillow and the other with an African-American child laying on its stomach.  Both children are laying next to a butcher knife in either ad.  Of course, the babies should not be laying on the belly or sides, the baby should not be on a pillow, the covers appear to be too soft, blankets are too close.  And, even more importantly, babies definitely should not sleep with butcher knives.  I removed the butcher knife from under my pillow when I had either of my babies sleeping with me.  Just wasn’t safe.

Cosleeping exists as a norm in more parts of the world than not.  Parents around the world practice some form of cosleeping and it seems that rather than use an extreme exaggeration of risks, it would be a better idea to recognize the reality of cosleeping and work to educate your public on the risks of how it is practiced rather than making the blanket statement that the practice itself is going to lead to your child’s death.

A plot of SIDS rate from 1988 to 2003

Image via Wikipedia

A campaign that takes one proposed method of prevention and suggest it as an absolute is dangerous in and of itself.  According to many sources, one being the well-respected Mayo Clinic, there are several risks factors to be considered with regards to SIDS.  Other campaigns put into place to educate rather than freak out new parents, have led to decreases in the SIDS rates of death in other countries.  In just five minutes of research online, I came across a report by SIDS Family Association Japan that showed a steady decline in the rate of SIDS related deaths over a 6 year period from .44 deaths per 1000 live births to .248 deaths per 1000 live births.

Nurse the baby: your protection against troubl...

Image via Wikipedia

This decline did not come by way of scaring the shit out of people.  The strategy, at the time, was to get the word out advising people to not smoke around the baby or when pregnant, put baby to sleep on the back, don’t leave baby alone when sleeping, and breastfeed as much as possible.  They did not pass out pamphlets with a baby smoking and drinking a bottle of gin, but people got the message.

Again, people cosleep.  People cosleep.  It is normal.  You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to but, people cosleep.

As reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the campaign, unveiled last Wednesday, includes two posters of a baby lying in a bed next to a large knife. In one, the baby is white; in the other, the baby is black. “YOUR BABY SLEEPING NEXT TO YOU CAN BE JUST AS DANGEROUS,” the copy blares.

I am not really infuriated by the insinuation that parents choosing to co-sleep are killing their babies.  I co-slept with all of mine and they are still here. It just amuses me, in a you-must-be-kidding-me way, that this campaign is focusing on only one of the risks factors involved in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). What about encouraging breastfeeding since studies show that breastfed babies are at less of a risk than bottle fed babies?  How about getting out the don’t smoke when pregnant, don’t smoke around the baby, don’t let others smoke around the baby posters?  How about giving kids something to do so that they don’t end up pregnant, since the risks are higher for babies born to mothers under the age of 20?  And prenatal care?  Are you ensuring that everyone has access to adequate prenatal care?

How about talking to parents about what the dangers are with cosleeping rather than discrediting the entire practice.  Perhaps tell the parents not to put babies in the adult bed alone (fall hazard) or no heavy duvets/comforters (suffocation factor), etc.  How about helping parents understand the best practices when it comes to cosleeping?

According to the MayoClinic (see link at end of article), although we can take some measures to help prevent the tragedy, there is no guaranteed way to ensure that your child will not fall victim.  Not cosleeping is only one of the six ways listed to help in the prevention.  The other five; breastfeeding, offering a pacifier, putting your baby to sleep on its back, careful selection of bedding and not overheating the baby, warrant attention from a campaign as well.

At the end of the day, there is no real guarantee of safety regardless of what steps you take.  That is the unfortunate tragedy and what woke me through the night many times to check if my son or daughter or son was moving/breathing.

My name is Kai and I am a cosleeper.  It has been 20 years since I began cosleeping.