You may be wondering whether co-sleeping is good or bad. No wonder! The Milwaukee Health Department has stirred up a mom’s nest, with its new advertising campaign about the potential dangers of co-sleeping, but then again, that was likely precisely the point.
The ads feature posters, one depicting a baby sleeping soundly next to an enormous butcher knife (about half as long at the baby) and the other, of a baby sleeping with its finger resting on a meat cleaver, in what is clearly a grown-up’s bed. Both bear the headline: “Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous.”

They go on to say: “Babies can die when sleeping in adult beds. Always put your baby to sleep on his back, in a crib.”

Co-sleeping: Good or Bad?The Safe Sleep for Your Baby campaign was kicked off this month in efforts to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS. In Milwaukee, according to the city’s website, “around 20% of infant mortality is attributable to a combination of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and Sudden Unexplained Death in infancy (SUDI). Of these deaths the majority die in an unsafe sleep environment.”

It goes on to outline that the health department “strongly advises parents NOT to share a bed with their infant…based on the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 Policy Statement, which states that the risk of SIDS has been shown to be reduced when the infant sleeps in the same room as the mother, but the AAP recommends that infants not share a bed with parents or anyone else, due to increased risk.”

Milwaukee health officials have defended the controversial ads, saying that the fact that Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate is higher than that of 30+ developed and underdeveloped countries is even more shocking than their ads. The rate among black babies is three times that of white babies. While no statistics were available for Latino babies, they tend to be about the same as whites at the national level, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Resa Michelle, a young Latina mom blogger, agrees that co-sleeping can be dangerous if done incorrectly. She shared her experience of co-sleeping with her baby, touting the benefits of bond and breastfeeding. While sharing a bed is common in many parts of the world, such as Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil and India to name just a few, it is still very much a taboo subject in the U.S. To add the controversy, there are studies to support not sleeping with your baby in your bed as well as studies supporting the benefits of co-sleeping with your baby, including preventing SIDS.

But according to at least one researcher, more babies sleep in the same bed with parents in the U.S., than parents are willing to admit. Dr. James McKenna says it’s the cultural acceptance—and not the bed-sharing itself—that varies more from culture to culture.

Whether you co-sleep or not, what are your feelings on the issue? Do you think the ads went too far? Do you think that parents and babies should share beds? If so, how young is too young or how old is too old?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section; we’d love to know how moms view this issue.