Controversy over Co-Sleeping: A PubH Campaign

A controversial public health campaign coming from Milwaukee targets infant and caregiver bed sharing. 20% of Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate is attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy (SUDI); it is the 7th worst in the country, with also large disparity rates (Black infant mortality rates are almost 3 times higher than whites in the city). 51% of these cases have been found to be related to bed sharing.

Outrage over the advertisements from mothers and other citizens include criticism over the provocative ad and Mayor Tom Barrett’s approval of its running. However, bringing attention to the issue was the campaign’s main objective; national news sources have started discussions even outside the Midwest.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be brought back to their own crib to sleep after feeding and/or comfort and advises against caregivers using in-bed co-sleepers. No studies have found bed-sharing protective of SIDS. Their policy report opposes bed-share especially if a parent is a smoker, overly tired, uses substances, if the infant is under 3 months of age, if the bed is soft/old, or if other children share the bed. However, there are also some conflicting messages; as public health campaigns increasingly encourage breastfeeding more parents are sleeping with their child. In order to prevent SIDS and other health risks to the infant, being sure to breastfeed in other areas or putting the baby back in the crib is necessary.

Coming from an MCH background, what are your thoughts on the advertisement? Too controversial? Too demanding? Just right? For more information on Infant Mortality Rates, see the Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s annual Child Health USA 2011 dataset: