I posted earlier about a “public [dis]service announcement” from the State of New York, against co-sleeping. This campaign did not educate about sleeping safely or even just “warn about the dangers of co-sleeping,” as the response stated. Rather, it showed a frightening image of a woman smothering her baby by accident with a voice-over that “babies sleep safest alone,” a statement NOT supported by the latest research.
I took some time to calm down and write a letter to my state. If you live in New York and wish to contact the department, you may do so here.
They responded, and I answered again. The state’s response is essentially that there were an alarming number of infant deaths in which co-sleeping was a factor. They do not take into account whether co-sleeping was a contributing or primary factor, nor do they compare this number with the number of infant deaths in cribs. Their reaction (scaring parents into not co-sleeping) is akin to saying that babies die in cars so, instead of promoting vehicular safety, they will launch a campaign discouraging parents from taking their baby in a car at all, ever.
In searching for the campaign online, I discovered that many other states have similar campaigns. Please be on the lookout to see if there is a campaign in your state and let me know in the comments. I will be posting a list of states that have these campaigns as I find them. If you write to your state, please share your letter in the comments and/or a link to your letter on your own blog.
Even if you are not a co-sleeper, please support the right of others to do so!
Other States With Campaigns (with links to the department to which you may address your concerns)
Open Letter to New York State Office of Children Services
Dear New York State Office of Children and Family Services,
I expect official offices of my state government to use my tax dollars and launch helpful, well-researched campaigns only when necessary. So, I was dismayed to see your television “public service announcement” claiming that “babies sleep safer alone.”
Perhaps whatever committee approve this advertisement is unaware that co-sleeping, when done safely, has a whole host of benefits. Not only do parents and children who co-sleep have the opportunity to bond and get more sleep and thrive, co-sleeping, when done safely, also reduces the risk of SIDS.
Dr. Sears, a prominent pediatric authority, has written a well-researched and clear article about the benefits of co-sleeping, including its possible effect on reducing SIDS. Theories about this aspect of co-sleeping include the idea that babies who co-sleep sleep lighter and therefore wake up more easily in case of a problem, mothers are more attuned to their baby’s sleep patterns when sharing a bed, and that the parents’ heart and breathing rhythms may even help form baby’s.
Before I continue, I assure you I am no zealot. I firmly believe each family should choose the arrangement that works best for its circumstances. Personally, I did not begin co-sleeping with my daughter until she was already close to a year old, and then only part of the night.
What concerns me is that your campaign of misinformation will scare parents into making decisions that may not be right for their families.
A far more honest campaign would discuss sleep safety in general. As with most parenting, co-sleepers must plan ahead and be drug-free to ensure their baby’s safety.
Baby’s sleep space, whether a crib or an adult bed, should be firm and free from excess clutter and fabric. If you choose to co-sleep, remove all heavy blankets and excess pillows from the bed. If you use recreational or prescription drugs that may affect your sleep patterns, baby may be safer in a crib. Consult your physician if you have concerns about prescription medications.
New and exciting research is getting us that much closer to understanding and preventing SIDS. We now know that placing baby on his back, ensuring a smoke free environment, and eliminating suffocation hazards are all actions that reduce SIDS deaths. For the time being, however, we cannot explain SIDS deaths. What we do know is that there are key ways that parents can better ensure infant sleep safety.
Instead of wasting money on factually suspect scare tactics, spend our tax dollars on a campaign that reflects the best science and educates parents to make the right decisions for their children.
Thank you for contacting the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) on June 29, 2008.
The statewide Babies Sleep Safest Alone campaign was developed as a result of an alarming number in fatalities reported to the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR), where co-sleeping was a factor listed in the narrative of the report. Since
2006, 89 deaths were reported to the SCR in this category. Out of that number, 68 deaths involved infants between 0 and 3 months old, and 17 involved babies between 4-12 months old. The remainder fell in the 1 to 5 years old category.
Our campaign materials alert parents about the dangers of co-sleeping and the factors that can cause an infant’s death while sharing a bed with an adult or an older sibling. We are aware that co-sleeping is a controversial topic and are confident that educated parents will take
the necessary precautions to prevent an accidental death, which is the goal of this multilingual statewide campaign.
Our Babies Sleep Safest Alone campaign supports the American Academy of Pediatrics strong stance against co-sleeping and recognizes the risk factors that can potentially harm your child.
Thank you again for your input and concern.
Your campaign fails to take into account the latest research. The AAP is not the final word. Look at the research available and you will see that co-sleeping SIDS deaths are a tiny number compared to crib SIDS deaths.
First, consider whether co-sleeping was actually happening in these reports–ie a baby in an bed, with an adult, without excess bedding. Eliminate falls from babies sleeping alone on a bed,”couch” co-sleeping, and deaths that are actually drug or alcohol related and you’ll have a different number.
Then, compare that number to SIDS deaths in cribs.
Tell me, how many babies died of SIDS in their cribs in New York?
I think you’ll find that co-sleeping safely is even safer than crib sleeping safely.
Your campaign does not discuss any of these issues. It makes a blanket statement that “Babies Sleep Safest Alone,” which isn’t true, and shows an image of a mother accidentally smothering her child, which is not what happens.
Tax dollars should not be spent on a campaign that uses scary images to take an irresponsible stand, which does not reflect the best research, on a controversial topic.
Put the money towards a campaign for safe sleep spaces, whether that be a crib or a bed, and I would be 100% behind that campaign.