To this day I still have to fast forward the MADD commercial where the little boy drops his glass of milk as a mother is told by a police officer that his father isn’t coming home. I just can’t bring myself to watch it. This disturbing commercial drives a message home to many – don’t drink and drive. It can ruin a family.
Another safe sleep video has hit the media and contents within the video share a similar disturbing and terrifying message for parents. In the video we see a close up of a mattress and crib sheet with a large stuffed bunny. As the camera pans out we see that the crib mattress is in a small grave. As a parent and especially parents of a baby it can take your breath away and suddenly you are listening to the message. The message being that all parents should practice the ABC’s of safe sleep and not bed share.
The purpose of the video is to raise awareness to a safe sleep campaign CelebrateOne, which launched in 2014 through the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force. With Columbus having one of the highest infant mortality rates in America, the final report showed that each year 150 babies under the age of one died in Franklin County, Virginia - it being among the worst in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. CelebrateOne was developed to target Franklin County and reduce infant mortality by 40 percent by 2020. The hope of this campaign and video is that it drives the message of the risk of bed sharing home and that it directs people to find out more about the campaign created and to follow the safe sleep recommendations within the campaign. A scare tactic that may work on some but not all.
The final report is shocking and the need to bring safe sleep awareness to the county is something I think we can all agree on. When I researched the site I was impressed by the magnitude of their campaign and all their work on promoting a safer sleep environment but like many safe sleep campaigns that I see there is one major thing in my opinion that is being left out.
As a sleep professional I am a huge advocate of safe sleep and the ABC’s of safe sleep, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Babies should always be placed on their backs, alone, and in their cribs. I will always recommend room sharing over bed sharing with my parents and the main reason is that when working with clients we often see parents “reactively” bed sharing. This is where a parent is bringing baby into their bed or falling asleep with them on the couch just to soothe and calm baby and so that both parent and baby can get those last few hours of sleep before the morning. Any parent can remember those hard sleep deprived nights and understand why this happens but when we are reactively bed sharing and no plan is in place things can get dangerous and I don’t think any parent, no matter what your parenting philosophy is, would disagree with that.
All of that being said, I am a sleep educator but I am also a realist. We can scare parents all we want as to the dangers of bed sharing but parents are still going to choose to do it. It could be for religious reasons or because it’s something they choose to do for their family, so instead of us just telling them not doing it, we need to educate parents on how to do it safely. This is what this campaign is lacking.
If a parent chooses to bed share it needs to be a committed decision made between both parents as it’s going to be a complete lifestyle change. Parents need a plan. They need to know what will be involved in safely preparing their sleep environment for bed sharing and everything needs to be implemented to the fullest extent before the baby is ever in bed with either parent.
I stand behind the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society, and choose room sharing as the safer route but I also feel it’s my responsibility to educate parents on the safest steps of whichever sleep environment is chosen. There is always a safer way of doing it and educating yourself is the first step. The state of Columbus has the best intentions at heart and they need to continue with their safe sleep campaign but they need to add ALL precautions parents can take that can possibly help reduce the risk of bed sharing, and that isn’t just eliminating it altogether.
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#YMCSleeps is tackling sleep issues as they relate to tired and stressed parents, and tired kids too – because quality sleep is not a once-and-done project; it’s an ongoing and ever changing endeavor.
So here’s to more – and better– sleep!