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What?! NYS campaign against co-sleeping?!

6 September 2008 1,603 views 7 Comments

It was just brought to my attention that New York State has an entire campaign dedicated to the dangers of co-sleeping. What the fuck. Could this be any more idiotic and wrongheaded?

They have an entire webpage, entitled, “Babies sleep safest alone,” that pretty much misleads parents, in my opinion. While the page correctly states that co-sleeping can be dangerous, they fail to make clear that it is only considered dangerous in some very specific circumstances. In fact, parents can co-sleep with they children perfectly safely if they follow some easy (and pretty logical) rules. (See this page, from La Leche League, that lists the ways to co-sleep safely).

Here are some of problems that are caused by the above campaign:

  • The webpage for the campaign actually seems to group the danger of SIDS with supposed (but wrong) presumptions that co-sleeping is dangerous. This is completely wrong and misleading. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that responsible co-sleeping with infants can actually reduce the rates of SIDS.
  • Speaking of reducing rates of SIDS, breastfeeding also reduces the chance of your baby dying of SIDS. And what action can parents take at night to help their breastfeeding relationship? Co-sleeping! Of course, many breastfeeding parents successfully nurse their children and do not co-sleep. But many parents do find that co-sleeping has many benefits in terms of breastfeeding: helping the mother to breastfeed frequently during the night with little sleep interruption (and thereby helping to support a good milk supply), helping parents and babies to continue to be in touch with each other during the night, and making the baby feel safe and secure.
  • The campaign missed the big picture. They fail to mention the many benefits of co-sleeping, while only mentioning the dangers. Many experts, including Dr. Sears, have pointed out the many benefits of co-sleeping, and how the scientific data does not, in fact, show a real danger to babies from the practice.
  • They ignore thousands and thousands of years of human history. Human mothers have been sleeping next to their babies for quite some time now. If we look at the link from Dr. Sears mentioned above, we can see how it makes sense physiologically, how it probably helped (and still helps) human infants survive. Isn’t it obvious that hubris is at work when a bunch of crib manufacturers and a few government officials (from a western country that just happens to have a terrible rate of neonatal mortality and a skyrocketing cesarean rate) decide that they should wipe away millions of years of mother-child instinct?
  • They assume that all parents are idiots, who either don’t care about their babies or are too stupid to follow a very short list of rules for safe co-sleeping. I admit it – I have met a few bad parents out there. Some parents really do not seem to care about their kids very much. But even though many parents are different than me, I’m working on the assumption that most parents actually do care about their kids and want them to be safe and happy. I’d wager that most parents are perfectly capable of following a few simple suggestions on how to co-sleep safely. When the government uses erroneous information and fear-mongering to force all parents to stop co-sleeping, then we all lose out. Even the good parents are filled with misplaced fear.

If you would like to co-sleep with your baby, read this link to learn how to do it safely: Sleeping Safely With Your Baby. It’s not neuroscience. If you can learn how to drive or how to use a stove safely, you can learn to co-sleep in safety. My husband has told me on more than one occasion how much he enjoys waking up in the morning and seeing one of our lovely children crawling over to him in bed. I agree – co-sleeping rocks.


  • Adina said:

    Yeah, I thought it was particularly idiotic, as my babies WOULD NOT SLEEP AT ALL alone. If I chose the ‘only let baby sleep’ alone option I probably would have gone insane from lack of sleep (is that safe?). I did try putting my baby to sleep alone with my first and she (I kid you not) did not sleep at all the first 4 days after returning home from the hospital. We tried the “recommended approach” with that first baby and we were all always overtired, and unhappy about our poor sleeping situation. No situation which involves over-tired parents should be classified as safe on any level. The second baby also refused to sleep alone, so we put her in the bed with us and woke up in the morning as functional people. We were all happier, healthier and safer for it. I learned about and practiced safe co-sleeping practices, because I was concerned about rolling over on my baby at first. But if you are aware, and consciencious about what you are doing, it is rare for that to happen. Co-sleeping is not the same as passing out on the sofa with you baby because you are too tired from rocking him/her to sleep to stand up anymore. How many of these cases where in families who practices safe co-sleeping practices (none to few I would imagine).
    To me this never co-sleep campaign sounds a lot like those abstinence only campaigns. People are still going to co-sleep with their babies, but if not given the proper education about how to do so safely, bad things are going to happen.
    Honestly, my family never co-slept because we particularly loved the practice, but it sure was wonderful that we all got a good night’s sleep, something that NEVER happened when “sleeping alone”. It just made sense and when done safely it was certainly safe, perhaps even more so than sleeping alone!

    Oh, by the way, check out the article just above the link to the “babies sleep safest alone” press release! (just below)

    NEWS from CPSC
    U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
    Bassinet Strangulation Hazard (Read the Press Release )
    CPSC warned parents, caregivers and consumers to immediately stop using convertible “close-sleeper/bedside sleeper” bassinets manufactured by Simplicity Inc., of Reading, Pa., due to a serious safety risk.


  • Summer said:

    I heard about that, I think a month ago, and was just aggravated. I’m at the point where I don’t even expect realistic sleeping recommendations anymore. just lots of “Don’t do that!”

    I actually commented on it somewhere, can’t remember where. But I remember the response I got. A woman jumped all over me telling me that she works in NYC filing death certificates and knows for a fact that nearly all co-sleeping deaths are in situations supposedly safe. I’m not one to call random people liars, but…

    Summer’s last blog post..Kick The Sposies To The Curb

  • Trish (author) said:

    Hi Adina!

    I sort of imagined co-sleeping with my first, but my mother insisted that I use this ancient bassinet that has been in the family for generations. So I would continually put my first in to sleep in the bassinet, and he would wake up crying the minute I put him in it. For some idiotic reason, I persisted in doing this endless hellish cycle for weeks, even through a terrible colic period. What was I thinking? Once that bassinet was out of the house, things got a hell of a lot better. If only I had come to my senses sooner, I think those first few weeks/months would have been a lot happier for mom and baby both!

  • Trish (author) said:

    Summer -

    They are liars! All of them! ;-)

  • Annie said:

    Ugh! Same problem here in Ontario. The coroner put out major press releases and had press conferences about how dangerous bed sharing is. I wrote a detailed response outlining the faults in their logic.


    Annie’s last blog post..Birth Plan: Yes or No?

  • Karla said:

    Babies should never be allowed to sleep with anyone who:

    * Is overweight.

    I can understand the drug and alcohol parts. But overweight? Like ‘Gilbert Grape’ overweight or just a few pounds? They probably mean ‘obese’, but ‘overweight’ includes a lot more people. And that’s the point of these campaigns, right? Scare as many people as you can.

  • Trish (author) said:

    I didn’t catch that example, Karla, but I’m glad you brought it up. Another example of non-fact-based fear mongering.

    If you check the link to Dr. Sear’s site, he says not to sleep with your baby if:
    “You are extremely obese. Obesity itself may cause sleep apnea in the mother, in addition to the smothering danger of pendulous breasts and large fat rolls.”

    That sounds much more sensible, IMO.