The Co-Sleeping Controversy and Enduring 'Bad Mom' Glares
As soon as the weather turns in Chicagoland, I know: 'Tis the season to start hearing all the dangers, illness, and strife that await my nearly 10-year-old son if he keeps refusing to wear a coat.
'Tis the season to endure the shaming glances, the "what a bad mom" nods while I shrug and offer: "He says he gets hot."
Maybe it's because I'm so fresh into the shaming season that I reacted so strongly to a new campaign from the City of Milwaukee that aims to curb the number of infants dying from unsafe sleeping conditions, particularly from co-sleeping—the practice of parents letting their baby sleep in their bed. The campaign includes radio ads, a Safe Sleep Summit, a "Safe Sleep Sabbath" song, and, most recently, two posters featuring sleeping babies cuddled up on piles of pillows and comforters, within reach of a butcher's knife. The words across the top: "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous."
Since the campaign's goal is nothing short of noble, you would think I'd be a huge fan.
When my kids were babies, I faced no greater fear than having them die suddenly (this is still my greatest fear). I took great precaution—no tummy-sleeping, no blankets, no pillows, no stuffed animals, no loose-fitting jammies—to make sure my babies slept as safely as possible. And since I appreciate Milwaukee's vigor in trying to reduce the number of infants apparently dying from co-sleeping, you'd think I'd appreciate the punch of the campaign's posters. Especially since at least nine infants have died this year from alleged co-sleeping arrangements. Further, according to the City of Milwaukee, "Between 2006 and 2009, there were 89 infant deaths related to SIDS, SUDI, or accidental suffocation. Of these, 46 (51.7 percent) infants were sleeping in an adult bed at the time of their death."
But I'm no fan of the campaign.
I'm no fan of "bad mom" insinuations, whether about coats or co-sleeping. I'm no fan of implying that parents who choose to co-sleep are as reckless or malicious as those who'd put their babies to bed with a knife. And I'm no fan of the government "educating" a public via shame and shock and hyperbolic misinformation.
I've never been a fanatical co-sleeper proponent (in fact, with my first two, I rather shunned the practice), but by the time I had my third, having my baby—who nursed round-the-clock—sleep next to me seemed a lot safer than me getting up six times a night, wobbling over to his bassinet or crib, gathering him up, settling me back down, nursing, sleeping, putting him back down, me wobbling back to bed.