- Tom BarrettMilwaukee Mayor
- Bevan BakerMilwaukee Commissioner of Health
- Scott WalkerWisconsin Governor
Mikwaukee released an ad campaign a few days ago with the aim of lowering their infant mortality rate. It shows a baby sleeping next to a butcher knife. The caption above states "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous." It's aim is to induce fear. It does not educate it tries to make parents fearful of co-sleeping. Education is the only way to reduce Milwaukee's high infant mortality rate.
I started this petition against the Milwaukee anti-co-sleeping ad campaign because they should spend their tax dollars on teaching parents how to co-sleep safely if they choose to. They should spend their tax dollars on accurately reporting SID cases such as if drugs or alcohol were factors, whether there's smoking in the house, was the baby placed prone (on their stomachs), were they sleeping on a couch, a chair, a bed, were other children in the bed, domestic cat or dog? SID death reporting is often lacking the proper details when it occurs in an adult bed. They simply say it was bed sharing that caused the death. This is not good science and erroneous reporting.
There is substantial evidence on co-sleeping benefits for both mother and baby especially if the mother is breastfeeding on demand and educated on how to co-sleep safely. This ad campaign will only scare parents never educate them on safe sleeping. We haven't always lived in houses with many bedrooms. Historically mother's and their babies slept together and the mother breastfed. Education is the only way to alleviate the high number of SIDs cases that Milwaukee is facing.
Thank you Evolutionary Parenting for writing such a powerful petition letter.
- Milwaukee Mayor
- Milwaukee Commissioner of Health
- Wisconsin Governor
City of Milwaukee
Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building
841 North Broadway, 3rd Floor
Milwaukee, WI 53202-3653
From: [INSERT YOUR INFORMATION HERE]
Dear Commissioner Baker,
I am writing to you in regards to your new Safe Sleep for Your Baby campaign. I would like to start by saying that the idea behind helping babies stay alive is laudable – waking to find your infant dead is any parent’s worst nightmare – and for making this a priority you have shown you care about the well-being of your tiniest citizens. However, and this is a big however, I am appalled and disgusted with the methods you have chosen and feel that instead of campaigning to educate parents, you’ve made the decision to use fear-mongering instead.
First, the idea of co-sleeping being akin to putting a child to bed with a butcher knife is insulting and disingenuous. Putting your child to sleep with a knife is reckless, careless, and shows no regard for your child’s well-being (not to mention that you’ve also put the babies in the ad on their side or stomach, with no clothes, surrounded by pillows and duvets – all of which serve as subliminal messages suggesting unfit parenting). Co-sleeping, or bedsharing, has been done for the history of humankind; as such is it an act that is hardwired into many parents and is done not with malice, recklessness, or a lack of regard, but is done out of love and a desire to care for and be close to one’s offspring. The posters and campaign serve to demonize the act of bedsharing and those who partake in it without any consideration of the reasons behind it. I suggest you read a wonderful review of bedsharing and co-sleeping research by Dr. Helen Ball, an anthropology professor at the University of Durham [Ball, H.L. (2009). Bed-sharing and co-sleeping: research overview. NCT New Digest, 48, 22-27], a reprint of which can be found here: http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/?p=601.
Your campaign also ignores key evidence that bedsharing can and is done safely around the world (e.g., Japan). By grouping all types of bedsharing together, you miss the opportunity to educate parents about the benefits as well as the risks, as well as how to safely bedshare should a family decide it’s appropriate for them. While there are those who should not bedshare (e.g., smokers, those who have been drinking), there are families who take the utmost care to ensure that their child’s sleeping arrangement in an adult bed is as safe or safer than in a crib. While SIDS remains a topic that deserves our attention, there are currently far too many problems in the reporting of SIDS cases to justify blanket statements like that of your campaign. Many deaths that fall under the SIDS umbrella include factors like drug and alcohol use, the presence of other children in the bed, too many pillows or duvets—all issues that could be avoided if parents were provided with real and honest information about bedsharing. Fear-mongering campaigns such as this have an implicit attitude that parents are stupid and need to be swayed to do what you believe is best for our families. Parents are not dumb and are quite capable of making appropriate decisions for their families provided they are given appropriate information. Nowhere in your campaign does it provide parents with any information on how to bedshare safely. In one study from the UK, Dr. Peter Blair found that anti-bedsharing campaigns that failed to provide information were associated with more parents putting their infant in greater danger by breastfeeding and falling asleep on sofas and chairs, a much more dangerous situation than bedsharing [Blair, P.S. (2010). Perspectives on bed-sharing. Current Pediatric Reviews, 6, 67-70]. The fact remains that anti-bedsharing campaigns have existed for years and yet the rates of bedsharing do not decline. Consider this in part due to our evolutionary history in which bedsharing was necessary for an infant’s survival and in part due to the fact that bedsharing has immense benefits for the family including more sleep, easier access and success breastfeeding, and bonding. These are all factors that families consider when making choices about their sleep environments and you would be wise to consider it.
I urge you to reconsider the manner in which you are trying to help infants. As with almost everything in life, the key to long-lasting change is education. Bedsharing can be done safely if parents are given the opportunity to learn how. And by learning about the conditions that are necessary for safe bedsharing, many families may decide that they cannot adhere to them and will wisely choose another sleeping arrangement. Your current campaign does nothing to truly help families make informed decisions and instead offers nothing but fear. By doing this, you have not only failed to properly serve your residents, but you have insulted and vilified good parents who are doing the best they can. I hope you realize you can do better.
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