5 Dollars

My life as an at-home momma of 3 amazing kids...it's kind of like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Indy.gov anti-cosleeping ads

I don't watch Oprah very often, but yesterday I did because I was interested in her story about America's Schools in Crisis. I was shocked by something I saw during Oprah yesterday. No.....it wasn't the sad state of America's high schools. I already knew plenty about that. While the information Bill and Melinda Gates have to share with America about our schools is depressing, what shocked me was an ad that was paid for by my own state government.

The advertisement begins with a mother and infant sleeping together on the couch. You can hear dad's voice and see the shakey movement of the video camera he's using as he calls for the baby to wake up and look at him. The mother sits up and checks the baby. She begins crying and yelling that the baby isn't breathing. You hear the dad calling 911 as the screen fades to black and the words "Never sleep with an infant.....even for a moment" appear on the screen.

This ad is part of the Kids First Summer Supervision Campaign that was recently mentioned in this Indy Star article. The other ads they have run involve bad things happening to children who are not being properly supervised in the bathtub or around swimming pools. The ad I saw is called, "She's Not Breathing" if you follow the link above to the Kids First website.

Here's my problem.....I don't agree with my state government making a blanket statement about where our babies should sleep. To make such an all-encompassing blanket statement, "never sleep with a baby," is to invalidate the cultures and subcultures in which this is not only a normal practice, but a chosen one.

And I don't agree with their position. Cosleeping is safe when it is done smartly! And the mother in this commercial was not cosleeping safely. (She was cosleeping on a couch and the baby was evidently bottlefed as there was a bottle on the table beside her.) Kids First has chosen to use scare tactics and to come out totally against cosleeping instead of chosing to educate parents about how to do it safely.

Leaving a child alone in a tub or near a swimming pool has no benefits. Cosleeping has been shown to have many benefits. Attachment Parenting International says:

Existing studies do not prove that co-sleeping is inherently hazardous. The elements of the sleeping environment are what dictate the level of danger to the infant. When non-smoking parents who do not abuse alcohol or drugs sleep on a firm mattress devoid of fluffy bedding, co-sleeping is a safe environment. In addition, it is likely that there are many children whose lives have been saved by sleeping next to their parents. There is anecdotal evidence, for instance, of mothers who have noticed their child not breathing and were able to stimulate them to breathe.

The research done thus far on co-sleeping has been, just like any other kind of research, deeply informed by the culture of the researchers and their subjects. Co-sleeping research conducted in the U.S. (where co-sleeping is widely regarded as odd, if not dangerous) is heavily influenced by the relatively high value Americans place on independence, technology, consumerism, and parents’ needs for time and privacy. Work done in other cultures, on the other hand, is more likely to look at the benefits of co-sleeping and emphasize the needs of infants as integral to family and societal functioning.
You may have to print this PDF file in order to be able to read it, but check out Why We Never Ask "Is It Safe for Infants to Sleep Alone?" Historical Origins of Scientific Bias in the Bedsharing SIDS?SUDI 'Debate' by Dr. James McKenna.

By the way...did you know that right here in Indiana we have an expert who not only recommends and supports cosleeping, he studies it! Dr. James McKenna heads the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. I hope that we will hear Dr. McKenna speak out about these PSA's soon. For now, here is a link to Dr. McKenna's Cosleeping FAQ and a quote from an article on Dr. McKenna's webpage:

No infant sleep environment is risk free. As regards cosleeping (in the form of bed-sharing) what we know to be true scientifically is that for nocturnal infant breast feeding and nurturing throughout the night both mothers and babies were designed biologically and psychologically to sleep next to one another. And while beds per se did not evolve mother-infant cosleeping most assuredly did-and not maximize infant and maternal health and infant survival! Infant-parent cosleeping with nocturnal breast feeding takes many diverse forms, and it continues to be the preferred "normal" species-wide sleeping arrangement for human mother-baby pairs. In the worldwide ethnographic record, mothers accidentally suffocating their babies during the night is virtually unheard of, except among western industrialized nations, but here there are in the overwhelming number of cases, explanations of the deaths that require reference to dangerous circumstances and not to the act itself.

Let me expand a bit on what we know to be true scientifically. Anthropological and developmental studies suggest that mothers and infants are designed to respond to the presence of the other, and no data have ever shown that among mother-baby pairs who cosleep for breast feeding in a safe cosleeping/bed-sharing environment that mothers are unable to sense the proximity of their babies in order to avoid smothering them. Our own laboratory sleep studies of cosleeping/bed-sharing mothers infant pairs (2 to 4 month olds) reveal that both breast feeding mothers and their infants are extremely sensitive throughout their night - across all sleep stages - to the movements and physical condition of the other. The healthy infant, which includes most infants, are able to detect instances, where for example, their air passages are blocked. They can respond very effectively to alert the mother to potential danger, and they have the physical skills to maneuver out of danger, under normal circumstances. That being said, modern societies and the objects on which we sleep and the social and physical conditions within which bed-sharing can and often does occur especially among the urban poor forces professionals to be very guarded when discussing bed-sharing and/or cosleeping. The truth is that there is no one outcome (good or bad) that can be associated with cosleeping in the form of "bed-sharing, but rather a range of outcomes (from potentially beneficial to dangerous and risky) depending on the overall circumstances within which the cosleeping takes place.

McKenna goes on to say:

During my many years of studying infant-parent cosleeping/bed-sharing, I am unaware of even one instance in which, under safe social and physical conditions, a mother, aware that her infant was in bed with her, ever suffocated her infant.

So.....what should Kids First be telling parents about cosleeping? How can parents safely share sleep with their babies? This link has some tips from The Indiana Perinatal Network and here are safe cosleeping guidelines from Attachment Parenting International. (Also note that IPN will be sponsoring a Safe Sleep Conference in October.)

* Always place baby to sleep on their back.
* Baby should sleep next to mother, rather than between mother and father.
* Take precautions to prevent baby from rolling out of bed. Use a mesh guardrail and be sure the guardrail is flush against the mattress and fill in any crevice with a rolled-up baby blanket or towel.
* Use a large bed with a mattress that fits snugly against the rail or is flush up against a wall. Don't use fluffy bedding or cover baby with comforters, etc.
* Do not sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or sleep-inducing over-the-counter medications or if you are overly exhausted from sleep deprivation
* Do not allow baby-sitters or older siblings to sleep with baby.
* Don't fall asleep with baby on a couch, bean bag chair or waterbed.
* Do not let baby sleep unattended on an adult bed.
* Don't overly bundle baby, because they get additional warmth from the mother's body. Overheating can be dangerous to infants.

Instead of making blanket statements and using scare tactics, Kids First should be educating parents about how to make safe cosleeping choices for their babies. When crib sleeping is discussed, the increased risk of SIDS vs. cosleeping children is rarely mentioned. Instead, parents who place their children in cribs are simply instructed to do it safely. Parents should put babies who sleep in cribs "back to sleep," make sure the slats are no farther apart than a Coke can, make sure the mattress fits the crib perfectly, don't put stuffed animals, pillows or blankets in the crib, etc. Why can't parents who choose cosleeping simply be encouraged to do it safely too?

Contact the Kid's First Trust Fund and let them know that providing parents with accurate information so that they can make informed decisions works far better than scare tactics!

Jill Larimore at (317) 232-3477 or Stephanie.Larimore@dcs.in.gov or fax number (317) 232-4436 (attention: Jill Larimore).

Contact WTHR and let them know how you feel about the station airing these ads. If you want to write to Channel 13's General Manager, Rich Pegram, go to the WTHR website and click on the WTHR tab at the top of the homepage. Then click Contact US on the dropdown bar and select General Manager. Here's a direct link to the contact page.

I hope that letters, emails and phone calls to Kids First and to the local media can help to get this anti-cosleeping ad pulled off the air and influence Kids First to choose education about safe cosleeping over scare tactics.


  • At 10:57 AM, August 02, 2006 , Blogger Jason266 said...

    That's interesting...I had heard about the scare tactic ads coming soon and knew they were going to cover tubs and stuff, but I didn't know they were going after co-sleeping.

    I know that the lovely wife and I are not doing the co-sleeping because, frankly, we're bed hogs. But the idea that NOBODY should is just, well, crazy.

  • At 1:08 PM, August 02, 2006 , Blogger Megan said...

    Very interesting information, especially from Dr. McKenna. Thanks for posting the contact info. I will be writing a letter.

  • At 8:40 AM, August 03, 2006 , Blogger dakotablueeyes said...

    I saw that too and i thought at first it was another drowning ad cause they have been airing those like crazy, either tthe one on the tub or the one in the pool

  • At 11:11 AM, August 04, 2006 , Blogger Anne said...

    it totally agree with you. and thi is just more of the govt getting invloved when it shouln't. say it with me, smaller government. it just can't handle too much responsibility without spiralling out of control.

  • At 6:51 AM, August 05, 2006 , Blogger Granny said...

    I'm the wrong generation to have an opinion on cosleeping one way or the other but I certainly agree this ad was way out of line.

    I do have an opinion on choices. As long as a child is loved and protected, parenting choices should be left to the parents involved.

    By all means provide support and help with either choice. This ad was an attack and it was wrong.

  • At 10:39 AM, August 12, 2006 , Blogger thordora said...

    Ads like this are the reason I have SOOOO much trouble explaining things to some people.

    We co slept a bit, but honestly, we take up too much room already, and it wasn't safe-as you illustrated in the "to-do's" list. But NOTHING is 100% safe, and using this kind of CRAP doesn't help anyone.

    Blatantly manipulative and underhanded. WHY can't anyone who can make a difference be rational about this stuff?

    Thanks for this post-good to see.


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