Co-Sleeping and Critical Thought

Have you seen this ad?

Or maybe you’ve seen the white baby version?

I’m back on my soap box. You’ve been warned. Stop reading now if you might get offended by what I have to say about this. 🙂

These are ads from the Milwaukee Health Department. You’ve probably seen them around the blogosphere and in the news. They’ve stirred up quite a controversy on co-sleeping and I am outraged by them. And for more reasons than the fact the message they convey is simply not true most of the time.

The truth is, sleeping with a baby is not necessarily dangerous if the parents are not drunk or on drugs. Babies were not made to sleep away from their mothers. Sleeping next to their mothers helps regulate their breathing and can decrease the incidence of SIDS. Sleeping next to their mothers can help promote breastfeeding. Sleeping with their baby can help mothers get precious sleep during the night. Why would you take the very baby who lived in your body for nine long months and is used to your warmth and heartbeat and place that baby in a separate bed in a room far away? Does that make any sense, really? Is that how babies have slept historically? I don’t think so.

If parents take reasonable precautions, don’t smoke, drink excessively, or use drugs, co-sleeping or bed sharing is perfectly safe. I have co-slept with all of my babies from the day they were born (or as soon as I could). It brings me such joy to snuggle with my little ones! Dr. McKenna and Dr. Sears are outspoken proponents of the benefits of co-sleeping. You can read what they have to say here and here, if you would like more information.

But this Milwaukee Ad Campaign is about so much more than co-sleeping as far as I am concerned. What makes me most mad about this whole controversy is the obvious scare-mongering tactics. As my friend Katie blogged about on her blog The Gentle Mom, these ads are most likely not geared for people who take it upon themselves to research the topic and form their own conclusions. These ads are targeted for everyone else. And therein lies my big, huge, enormous gripe.

What has happened to critical thought? It seems to be gone from a large part of society today. Why is it necessary to scare people into action instead of providing them with sensible information and letting them reach their own conclusions. If you don’t want to co-sleep, that’s fine. But let’s have an honest discussion about its pros and cons instead of scaring people down a certain path.

Instead of providing people with pros and cons and letting them form their own conclusions, we simply tell them no. And instead of just saying no, though, we say hell no. Look, these ads say. Co-sleeping is so dangerous you may as well put a butcher knife in bed with your baby. Because you are going to kill your baby by co-sleeping. And that’s simply NOT true. (But if you’re worried about, just stick your baby in a spica cast and co-sleep. I guarantee you won’t roll over on that thing. 😉 )

And the same goes for a variety of topics.

Instead of telling moms it’s ok to drink a glass of wine or have a small beer occasionally while pregnant or breastfeeding, we tell them No. You are not smart enough to decide when enough is enough. Therefore, you should not be allowed to do it at all. And if you would dare consider drinking a bit during pregnancy, you are risking all sorts of terrible birth defects on your kids. And forget having a drink while nursing. You certainly don’t want to get your baby drunk do you? It’d be better just to stop nursing and feed your baby formula if you want to have a drink. Don’t concern yourself with minor details like the dangers of formula.

And raw milk. Another no. At least in the state of Iowa. If you want raw milk, better get your own cow and start milking. Because it’s against the law to sell raw milk around here, even for pets. You might get dangerous microorganisms and get seriously ill. Or you may even DIE! Never mind the benefits of raw milk or the fact that I should be able to make myself sick if I want to! 😉

And vaccines. Don’t think about this one at all. You have to do it. Herd health, you know? It’s your duty as an American citizen to fully, and on some arbitrary schedule inject your precious baby full all kinds of toxic ingredients. And if you do have the balls to question vaccines, well, make certain you don’t decide some are ok and some are bad. Because that’ll get you no where except trouble. And you won’t be able to send your kids to public school, that’s for sure. (That’s not true by the way).

And homebirthing, and pesticides, and meat packing slaughter houses, and circumcision…Don’t think about these topics. Just do what’s expected of you, what most other people do and you’ll be just fine. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop now.

Instead of providing people with relevant information and letting them decide for themselves, we have become complacent to let other people do the thinking for us. And I don’t like it. Not one little bit. It makes me mad. And it frustrates me to no end. What has happened to critical thought???

If you’ve read to the end, what’s your take? What do you think about the ads? Am I way off base by linking in critical thought?

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  1. Amen, Sister! Critical Thought is a lost art. If you think for yourself, you are considered argumentative and defiant; not to mention that if you think different you are wrong! ;-) We have discussed "controversial issues" before and the disturbing resistance you meet when you try to have an open and honest conversation about such issues. I think your use of the term "Herd" is dead on. People are scared to think for themselves. But mostly, I think people are just lazy and want to be told what to do and think. The mentality that what we are taught in school or church is the only truth/facts we need, and if a teacher or other authority tells you "how it is", who are we to question is disturbing. To think for one's self is to be free. To have that freedom is power, and that is what the problem is. If a group/government/central authority can't exercise power over the masses there will be a social break down and absolute chaos! Whatever. The most freethinking societies have the least amount of crime, have peaceful and socially responsible citizens. As for these ads, they are beyond terrifying and the fact that they even made it to publication. I am guessing that these people read one report without scrutinizing the researcher, the research itself and the variables involved, and not involved. And I would agree that any normal, responsible parent would not go to bed drunk or on drugs with a child. The parent/individual has to be responsible, and THAT is the real danger. We live in such a society where it is someone else's fault; personal responsibility and accountability has been lost upon the many.
  2. with you all the way. I was furious when I saw that ad last week. FURIOUS! I am OVER being told what to do or told that I should fear the "consequences". btw, Kevin STILL sleeps with us. I guess I should be afraid he's gonna still be in our bed when he's 16? :P
  3. I agree with so much of what you say. This absolutely IS about critical thinking. But here's where we differ: I just don't trust people to do it. I know SO MANY people who parent by the seat of their pants. People who let babies eat popcorn, preschoolers ride in the front of the car, middle school kids smoke in the house, and so on. People who are uneducated, and ill-informed, and yet somehow also think they know everything. I don't really mind if we as a society scare or bully these types of parents into making smarter, safer choices. And I also think that people who are unwilling or unable to research safe sleeping practices should probably not cosleep. I have seen, firsthand, drunken teenaged moms crash on the couch with their babies. Or bring them into beds filled with pillows and stuffed animals and big, heavy blankets. Or let them sleep with their older siblings, some of whom are only in preschool themselves. I have also been told by these same young moms (some of whom are my relatives) to mind my own f*cking business, that these are their kids and they can do what they want. So I am all in favor of sitting these people down and saying, "Put your baby in an empty crib, every night, or she might die." Because the likelihood of these types of moms getting cosleeping "right," every night? Not good.
  4. I think the ad is a little over the top. A little too scary. I, personally, chose not to co-sleep for various reasons. However, if I were to have another child I probably would at least for the first few weeks. With the first I tried to do everything perfect and think by the time you add more kids you stop following the rules as closely. :) With that being said, I think we need more "mentor moms" out there who can guide the kind of moms "Gentle Mom" mentioned. Before my husband I were married I lived alone in a government subsidized housing and almost all of my neighbors were single moms. The lady across from me had like seven cats (we weren't supposed to have pets), guys coming and going all hours of the night, and let her sons run in the snow (it was Michigan) unattended at 4 in the morning barely dressed. A few months later one of the boys died of dehydration. She said he was sick with the flu and she did not know how to take care of him. I wish I would have called 911 or CPS or something when I saw her kids running around outside in the middle of the night, but I was very young and ignornant. We need to educate these young moms and give them guidance. But I wonder how is the best way to do this?
  5. Amy brings up a great point - "We need to educate these young moms and give them guidance. But I wonder how is the best way to do this?" Certainly it is not by posting fear-mongering billboards. I wonder what the advertisers who took the initiative to post this ad were thinking. I wonder if they had any second thoughts along the way. How much better would our culture be if we all asked Amy's question on a regular basis! Co-sleeping, homebirthing, pesticides, circumcision, meat-packing practices, vaccination. ..these can become very emotionally-laden debates. I know they have been in my household. The facts can be approached from different perspectives and don't always lead to certainty. Sometimes even a clear, concise presentation of the facts is not enough to make a person detach from a strong desire to find cultural assimilation. The challenge, I suppose, is finding a way toward healthy, ethical lifestyle choices that, once made, don't leave a person feeling as though they are suddenly a social outcast. I co-sleep. I longed to homebirth (but didn't end up doing so, for lack of support). I avoid pesticides, though I admit I could probably do more with my grocery dollars to support organic farming. I decided that come hell or high water I would not allow my second son to be circumcised as I did my first (even though I was opposed to it for the first as well but deferred to the male opinion in my household). I buy my meat from farmers I know who raise animals I see grazing on a regular basis. I did have my children vaccinated because I read up on both sides of the issue (and continue to do so when I find reading material) and decided that the arguments against it weren't proven to be as harmful as the arguments for it were proven to be beneficial. At this point I want to trust that the team of medical researchers that make up the CDC are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, citizens who aim to contribute to the health and well-being of people.
  6. I guess I'm riding the fence on this one. If this ad will save a handful of childrens lives, then I can stand to look at it. I'm in the same boat as The Gentle Mom with not trusting some parents to make smart choices. If this ad scares those irrisponsible parents into making a choice that could save that child, then so be it. I made the choice to partially co sleep with my kids. I did not drink, and I do not use drugs. If I had to take any kind of medicine, such as cold medicine, I chose to stick them in their cribs. I fully trust my judgement and do no feel threatened by this ad. I WILL make my own decicions, not be lead by others. There are some parents who need leading though, for the saftey of the child. I will hope that these ad lead those who need it, and hope that those who know better aren't too offended. It's a tough call. I really can understand both sides points. Great post!!!
  7. You all have made excellent points and I appreciate the polite discussion! I agree on the necessity of education. A main goal of the college composition classes I teach is encouraging critical thought and I know first hand how hard that is. It's impossible sometimes. My main problem with telling people to put babies in cribs though, is that it's also NOT safe. Co-sleeping incorrectly has problems, that's true, but babies die in cribs too. So just telling someone to put their baby in the crib is not necessarily any safer than co-sleeping. And so putting out unsafe information with other unsafe information makes me question everything. Who gets to decide what information is disseminated and what information is hidden? That's what scares me. How much research will I have to do to find the the reliable answer? And what about the health care professionals who have bought into the lies without doing their own research? How does that impact those of us who question mainstream choices. I'd like to be able to discuss my choices with my health care professionals, not have to be careful of what I say in their presence.

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