Co-Sleeping Ad Aims To Reduce Infant Deaths In Milwaukee

A controversial ad circulating in Milwaukee is meant to grab parents’ attention to the potential dangers of co-sleeping.

Some say co-sleeping is a parenting decision that is safer if done correctly, but health officials argue that it’s too often deadly, especially in Milwaukee.

Co-sleeping is when parents have their infants sleep next to them in their bed, instead of having the baby sleep in a crib.

Madison parents who were shown the ad are reacting to it.

The ad is graphic. It claims, “Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous” as your baby sleeping with a butcher knife, which is shown in the ad.

“Yeah, it is dangerous,” said Mike Bodden.

The Madison resident said his daughter in Colorado decided to have her baby sleep in her bed.

“I think it’s terrible,” he said. “It’s an awful concept because parents can so easily smother a baby.”

“Oh, well, that’s not good,” said Kevin Offett, of the knife next to the baby in the ad. “Who does that? I don’t even know how to react to something like that.”

In a 2007 study, the city of Milwaukee was ranked seventh-worst for infant mortality among the 53 largest cities in the U.S. Health officials said this is partly due to unsafe sleeping conditions.

The disparity between black and white infant mortality rates in Milwaukee is one of the worst in the nation. The new ad campaign is part of a new effort to try to get the message to parents, who are sometimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Offett said he has had his infants sleep in his bed because it’s simply easier that way.

“I’m aware that the baby is next to me and I have to be careful not to roll over on him,” he said.

If parents in Milwaukee can’t afford a crib, the ad provides a number for a free Pack ‘n Play.

A similar service is provided in the Madison area. Public Health Madison and Dane County and the American Family Children’s Hospital are working together providing cribs to dozens of parents who can’t afford one. But they are only available for those parents who are referred by public health nurses.

In 2010, this program gave away 120 cribs and expects to give away the same number this year.