The Milwaukee Anti-Cosleeping Campaign: An Opportunity Squandered


Welcome to the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival hosted by Monkey Butt Junction . Our bloggers have written on so many different aspects of cosleeping. Please read to
the end to find a list of links to the other carnival


This anti-cosleeping advertisement has launched thousands of conversations on the topic of cosleeping:

But was the message getting through?  Rather than talking about safe cosleeping methods (or even addressing whether such methods exist) people were outraged at the visceral comparison of a sleeping newborn next to a sharply edged blade.  Sure, people were talking.  But is that really what we want this discussion to be about?  The shocking nature of the ad?  Shouldn’t we instead be talking about why people are bedsharing, and what can be done to educate parents on safe alternatives to dangerous bedsharing?

I have long believed that the City of Milwaukee Health Department has missed out on the opportunity to educate people about cosleeping.  There is no doubt that Milwaukee has a problem:  the City reported 46 deaths related to bedsharing between 2006 and 2009. Further adding to this disservice is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (a large local newspaper) which has taken up the anti-cosleeping cause by highlighting story after story of a parent whose child died because the mother was under the influence of alcohol, or using drugs, or sleeping in a patently unsafe environment such as a sofa.  Rather than opening a discussion on safe forms of cosleeping, this tactic gives parents who aren’t educated safe sleep a false sense of security: “that won’t happen to use because I don’t drink or use drugs.”  If only that were true.

Milwaukee has squandered yet another opportunity to educate.  What could it have done better?

First, let’s get it straight:  Milwaukee isn’t talking about cosleeping.  It uses the word “cosleeping” but really it is talking about dangerous bedsharing.  Children aren’t dying from roomsharing, or sleeping in cosleepers. The Milwaukee campaign would have been much more effective had it differentiated between roomsharing, safe bedsharing, using a cosleeper, and unsafe bedsharing.  Those are four very distinct things and they need to be discussed separately, and the ad campaign utterly fails in that respect.  The brush is too broad, and it causes unnecessary confusion.

Second, let’s talk about reasons not to cosleep.  Cosleeping can be hard.  It is an added responsibility, and added concern, to an already long list of worries that parents have about their new babies.   Cosleeping means making a place in your room – your sanctuary – for another body.  Cosleeping can create barriers to intimacy – a dynamic that is already likely changed anyway by the new addition to the family.  Cosleeping means demanding a whole new level of awareness from yourself.  The decision to cosleep isn’t something that a family should take lightly. Cosleeping is something that doesn’t work for every family, for very legitimate reasons.  Instead of hyperbole and fear, let’s discuss cosleeping with the seriousness that it should be addressed.

Finally, let’s get real.  Cosleeping isn’t like keeping a butcher knife in your child’s bed.  That is pure hyperbole, and hyperbole doesn’t educate, it outrages, it confuses, and it undermines the gravity of the situation.  Moreover, no one disputes that bedsharing under dangerous conditions can be fatal. The problem lies in the fact that too many families do not know how to recognize those dangerous conditions.  Indeed, allowing an infant to sleep in a crib with heavy blankets and pillows, as shown in the Milwaukee ad campaign, can be just as deadly.  Education on those points could have gone so far to prevent infant deaths. Milwaukee had a great opportunity to talk about different sleeping arrangements, and instead it utilized scare tactics and controversey. And families in Milwaukee are continuing to bedshare dangerously, as evidenced by the deaths that have occurred since the ad campaign began.

What a disservice.

Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival

Thanks for reading a post in the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival. On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the #CosleepCar hashtag.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  • Emotive Co-Sleeping Campaign – Miriam at Diary of an Unconscious Mother talks about her feelings on Milwaukee’s anti-cosleeping crusade and its latest advertising campaign.
  • Why Cosleeping has Always been the Right Choice for My Family – Patti at Jazzy Mama shares how lucky she feels to have the privilege of sleeping with her four children.
  • Cosleeping is a safe, natural and healthy solution parents need to feel good about. – See how Tilly at Silly Blatherings set up a side-car crib configuration to meet her and her families’ needs.
  • Black and White: Race and the Cosleeping Wars – Moorea at Mama Lady: Adventures in Queer Parenting points out the problem of race, class and health when addressing co-sleeping deaths and calls to action better sleep education and breastfeeding support in underprivileged communities.
  • Reflections on Cosleeping – Jenny at I’m a Full Time Mummy shares her thoughts on cosleeping and pictures of her cosleeping beauties.
  • Cosleeping and Transitioning to Own Bed – Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine shares her experiences in moving beyond the family bed.
  • What Works for One Family – Momma Jorje shares why cosleeping is for her and why she feels it is the natural way to go. She also discusses the actual dangers and explores why it may not be for everyone.
  • Really High Beds, Co-Sleeping Safely, and the Humanity Family Sleeper – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives a quick view of Jennifer’s bed-sharing journey and highlights the Humanity Family Sleeper, something Jennifer could not imagine bed-sharing without.
  • Crying in Our Family Bed – With such a sweet newborn, why has adding Ailia to the family bed made Dionna at Code Name: Mama cry?
  • Dear Mama: – Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares a letter from the viewpoint of her youngest son about cosleeping.
  • Cuddle up, Buttercup! – Nada of The MiniMOMist and her husband Michael have enjoyed cosleeping with their daughter Naomi almost since birth. Nada shares why the phrase “Cuddle up, Buttercup!” has such special significance to her.
  • Co-Sleeping With A Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler – Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how co-sleeping calls us to trust our inner maternal wisdom and embrace the safety and comfort of the family bed.
  • Fear instead of Facts: An Opportunity Squandered in Milwaukee – Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction discusses Milwaukee’s missed opportunity to educate on safe cosleeping.
  • Cosleeping: A Mini-rant and a Lovely Picture – Siobhan at Res Ipsa Loquitor discusses her conversion to cosleeping and rants a little bit about the Milwaukee Health Department anti-cosleeping campaign.
  • Our Cosleeping Story – Adrienne at Mommying My Way shares her cosleeping story and the many bonus side effects of bedsharing.
  • Cosleeping can be safe and rewarding Christy at Mommy Outnumbered shares how her cosleeping experiences have been good for her family.
  • Adding one more to the family bed Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the safety logistics of bed sharing with a new baby and a preschooler.
  • The Truth About Bedsharing – Dr. Sarah at Parenting Myths and Facts discusses the research into bedsharing and risk – and explains why it is so often misrepresented.
  • Cosleeping as a parenting survival tool – Melissa V. at Mothers of Change describes how she discovered cosleeping when her first baby was born. Melissa is the editor and a board member for the Canadian birth advocacy group, Mothers of Change.
  • Dear Delilah – Joella at Fine and Fair writes about her family bed and the process of finding the cosleeping arrangements that work best for her family.
  • CoSleeping ROCKS! – Melissa at White Noise talks about the evolution of cosleeping in her family.
  • Safe Sleep is a Choice – Tamara at Pea Wee Baby talks about safe sleep guidelines.
  • 3 Babies Later: The Evolution of our Family Bed – Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about how her family’s cosleeping arrangements evolved as her family grew.
  • Tender Moments – The Accidental Natural Mama discusses tender cosleeping moments.
  • Cosleeping Experiences – Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure describes how she ended up co-sleeping with her daughter through necessity, despite having no knowledge of the risks involved and how to minimise them, and wishes more information were made available to help parents co-sleep safely.
  • The early days of bedsharing – Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares her early memories of bedsharing with her then new born and gets excited as she plans including their new arrival into their sleeping arrangements.
  • The Joys of Cosleeping in Pictures – Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares pictures of some of her favorite cosleeping moments.
  • Symbiotic Sleep – Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children discusses how the symbiotic cosleeping relationship benefits not only children but also parents.
  • Co-sleeping Barriers: What’s Stopping You? – Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she was almost prevented from gaining the benefits of co-sleeping her family currently enjoys.
  • Co-Sleeping with the Family Humanity Sleeper – Erica at ChildOrganics shares a way to make co-sleeping safe, comfortable and more convenient. Check out her post featuring the Humanity Organic Family Sleeper.
  • Why We Cosleep – That Mama Gretchen’s husband chimes in on why cosleeping is a benefit to their family.
  • Adding to the Family Bed – Darah at A Girl Named Gus writes about her co-sleeping journey and what happens when a second child comes along.

A big thank you to all of the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival participants!

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8 Responses to The Milwaukee Anti-Cosleeping Campaign: An Opportunity Squandered

  1. Kerry @ City Kids Ho

    Thanks so much for hosting this very important blog carnival! Cosleeping is a safe, time-honored and nurturing practice embraced the world over and I hope this carnival helps to educate and enlighten.

    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

  2. I Thought I Knew Mam

    Thanks so much for hosting this carnival! I'm loving all of the posts! Take that City of Milwaukee Health Department!

  3. Ashley

    I just wrote about this same subject as well. Here's a link to my post:…. I think it's so important to talk about how to safely co-sleep instead of focusing on making sure parents don't do it. I love snuggling with my two little ones in bed!

  4. Dionna @ Code Name:

    You make excellent points – the campaign was a major fail for actually educating parents about safely sharing sleep. And I have never thought about the sacrifices parents make when cosleeping – but you are so right on! It is a lifestyle shift.

    Thanks for a wonderful carnival, I'm enjoying reading and commenting on all of the posts!

  5. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    Very good points. I so appreciate your reasoned perspective, and your foresight in organizing this carnival. I'm glad we're all able to have this discussion, since the ad campaign didn't do a good job fostering communication on its own.

  6. Christy @ Adventures

    LOVE!! Such a great post and so true. Sadly they decided shock value scare tactics would do the job just fine, most likely because it would cost a lot more money to create an ad campaign to tach safe cosleeping/bedsharing practices :(

  7. Billie

    Not sure if this campaign is considered good or bad, but to me it is just our responsibility to take extra good care of ourselves, our loved ones regardless the babies, kids, the other loving half… Learn to be responsible and to be careful.


    A certified nurse assistant student.

  8. Peggy

    I just stumbled across this post & I now understand why my MIL, who lives in Milwaukee was so freaked out when I told her that we plan to side-car our crib. At the time all she could do was rant about how unsafe it was and how we’d kill our child. Seeing the propaganda that she saw I can somewhat understand where she was coming from. I will now have a much better perspective if (when) the topic comes up again. So glad I’m getting educated now before baby’s here.
    Peggy recently posted..diaper bags

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