Is Co-Sleeping as Dangerous as Sleeping with a Butcher Knife?

Health & Wellness on 11.17.11
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Photo Credit: City of Milwaukee Health Department

The City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Health Department has launched a new ad campaign about the dangers of co-sleeping. The ads show infants sleeping with butcher knives to imply that the two things are equally as dangerous. Co-sleeping is one of those highly controversial parenting choices that does not have an easy answer. While there are many studies on the benefits of co-sleeping, there are also many deaths every year that are determined to be a result of co-sleeping, and in fact, the ninth such death in Milwaukee this year was announced the same day as this ad campaign launched. So what's a parent to do?

I Did It

Personally, I was always very nervous about co-sleeping, but that's not to say that we never did it. I had no intention of doing it, but once they arrived I certainly enjoyed having my babies snuggled in with us, and in my sleep deprived state, it was a lot easier to have them with us than going back and forth to their rooms every time they woke up during the night. Most nights I would try to put them to bed in their own bed, but if they got up in the middle of the night, they didn't always make it back into their own rooms. Luckily my son started sleeping through the night very early, and it became a non-issue within weeks.

But with my daughter, from the day she was born, she wanted to be in that bed with us. I would put her in the bassinet where she would sleep soundly, and then as soon as my husband or I got into bed, she wouldn't stop crying until she got into bed with us. We had a co-sleeper with the hard sides that went in between my husband and me, but she always seemed to wiggle her way down to the part where the protective sides weren't. It was a year before she started sleeping through the night and slept in our bed at least part of it. It was a very exhausting year.

Because I was always nervous about my husband or me rolling over on her, even when she did sleep, I never slept well because I was always checking on her. In addition, I decided that if she was going to be in bed with us, the only way to truly not be able to roll over on her was not to put her in between us. And so I decided it was safest if she slept on my chest. I did not read that anywhere and I'm pretty sure that no doctor would recommend it so I'm not suggesting that anyone else do it without checking with their pediatrician. It's just what gave me a little bit of peace of mind in my year of sleep deprivation.

Do the Benefits Out-Weight the Risks?

I totally understand why parents want to co-sleep with their children, well at least in the beginning, but if it we know that there have been deaths resulting, I think we can't be so quick to dismiss the concerns about it as well. In Milwaukee this year alone there are nine sets of parents who are mourning the loss of their babies because of it. I cannot even begin to imagine what that is like nor do I ever want to know. The government has banned drop side cribs because of deaths. Chicago has banned the sale of crib bumpers due to suffocation and the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned against using them as well. And I've seen very few people in an uproar over either of those things because they want to make sure that their babies are safe.

We spend all day trying to keep our babies safe so at what point do we determine that the benefits of co-sleeping are worth the risks that can also be involved. Do I think co-sleeping is as dangerous as sleeping with a butcher knife? No, and this ad campaign was clearly trying to be provocative. There is certainly a much higher chance of injury with a butcher knife in your bed, but the point is that we need to be highly aware of the dangers of co-sleeping, and I think if it's something that people really feel they want to do that the best way to do it is with a three sided co-sleeper that attached to the side of the bed next to the mom or dad.

What do you think about this ad campaign? Does it go to far?

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