Black and White: Race and the Co-Sleeping Wars

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
participants.

***

These days there is a lot of fighting between governments/pediatrics and people who are doing the actual parenting (mothers who have instincts and see what works for their own families). War has broken out in the sleep arena, it is getting more intense every day, the news is all over it, and I am thrilled. Why? Because the actual benefits of breastfeeding and co-sleeping are being unearthed and made known. The statistics about co-sleeping deaths versus crib-sleeping SIDS deaths are being made known also. Mothers everywhere are speaking out on television, on blogs, and to other mothers about a wonderful “dirty little secret” called c0-sleeping. Right now, the spotlight is on Milwaukee. Here is some decent news coverage from Milwaukee which takes race and class into account in terms of pointing out that it is African American families that are affected by infant sleeping deaths, and that there is often nicotine or other substances in the house and that the  babies are formula fed-  but the newscast fails to make any helpful conclusion or call to action. What a shame. I guess I will do it.

We are sure to see more anti-co-sleeping campaigns pop up all over the states as a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is launching   campaign against co-sleeping paid for by Juvenile Products Manufacturer’s Association (crib manufacturers, that’s right!).

Sure, I am upset about this outrageous ad from the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

But I am more worried about the effects of this one:

- The infant death statistics can be read so that risk factors for co-sleeping deaths are formula feeding, being African-American of course drugs, alcohol or nicotine use in the home and obesity. Because it seems the health department has noticed the race statistics on co-sleeping deaths in Milwaukee, they can target specific vulnerable population of mothers with this propaganda. Propaganda which is, I’ll say it: so black and white, that it is actually a lie.   Because as PhDinParenting so astutely suggests, it is more dangerous to drive with your child in the car in a safe car seat than it is to co-sleep.

We parents who know how to co-sleep safely are offended by this sort of ad and seem to wish that breastfeeding, co-sleeping families would stop being vilified in this way. But what about parents who aren’t breastfeeding or don’t know how to safely co-sleep? How will they be reached ?  Can you imagine an ad that says “Don’t sleep with your baby if you are black, drink alcohol or are fat?”  And we can’t just give up the fight to try to save all babies from sleeping deaths just because co-sleeping parents are offended. A whole new level of thoughtfulness about public education and race and class is needed and it is too complicated to be handled with simple propaganda.

What’s more?  The above two ads aren’t shown together.  I am worried that a stand-alone picture of a black baby in a parent bed with a knife is promoting racism and stereotypes in a country where the white racist supremacist beliefs include that African Americans are second-rate parents and that African-American homes are violent places. If babies are dying, we cannot hold only parents responsible.  Race is not a “risk factor” for anything. Infant sleeping deaths in the black community are just another example of healthcare inequality.

Why is our government using scare propaganda in an expensive campaign to dictate what people shouldn’t do rather than putting money into actually educating people about safe co-sleeping and making breastfeeding support and education more affordable and more available in these communities?  If African-American communities have had low breastfeeding rates for decades, it makes sense that maybe there aren’t too many grandmothers able to help out in that department.

I consider this blatant racism because if we actually cared about the well-being of black children in America, we would be actively making sure that their mothers had breastfeeding support and better education about the care of newborns. Instead, moms leave the hospital with a bag full of free formula samples. Lactation consultant services are prohibitively expensive.

And if we wanted our poor children to have the opportunity to grow up healthy and rise to contribution, we would be spending more money on parent eduction and services than on war (and how ironic our wars are against people of color.) With some research I found out Milwaukee county already has a Breastfeeding Coalition, which I’m sure could use some funding.

Instead of “targeting” anybody (people of color or formula feeders) with controlling black and white propaganda, I’d like to see cities add community programs to help parents find sobriety, to promote breastfeeding, to provide one-on-one  breastfeeding counseling.  And with obesity as a factor, how about free and easily accessible diabetes testing, supplies, vegetables and nutrition consultations, sleep apnea testing and treatment. And guess what, unlike ad propaganda (which benefit a few ad executives), the sorts of programs I just suggested…create jobs!!!

Because the main problem with these ads is not that they are shameful, false and rude. The main problem is that they won’t save babies. I know this because I am a mom who was sleep deprived. And I know it because as a postpartum doula and I have volunteered with disadvantaged moms. They had cribs gotten for free and they already knew, like every other mother, that it is recommended to put baby on his back in a crib (even though anyway more babies die in cribs more often than beds?). But moms will say over and over that they know the baby should be on her back in a crib, all the while falling asleep with baby in bed day and night, out of sheer exhaustion.

It is exhausting to have a new baby and co-sleeping makes things easier. Add to that the fact that none of the deceased babies in Milwaukee were breastfed,  and our knowledge that breastfeeding is a protective factor against sleeping deaths and I see a the real solution for Milwaukee’s problem quite clearly.

What will save babies’ lives? More Government sponsored breastfeeding promotion, education and support for underprivileged families. (And maybe an ad about how to co-sleep safely.)

Call to Action:

For those who want to send a note to Wisconsin Dept. of Health, Contact Monica at the Family Care Partnership Program.  and the City of Milwaukee Health Department  and email these offices suggesting that campaigns geared towards teaching safe co-sleeping and promoting and supporting breastfeeding would be more effective than these ads.

Contact your own city and county health departments and ask how they are working toward promoting safe co-sleeping education and breastfeeding support!

*******

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 FamilyMomma 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 MomentsThe 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 CosleepThat 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.

About Moorea Malatt

Moorea Malatt is a mom and Parent Coach currently focusing on early potty, gentle discipline and gentle sleep learning in workshops and private phone consults as well as trying to change the world through blog articles on gentle and effective parenting. Moorea also wrote the album of songs called, "Whip It Out: Songs for Breastfeeding". She and owns and directs Genius: A Baby Academy in Seattle, offering fun classes and support for new families. Moorea blogs over at MamaLady Parenting. As a parent, Moorea overcame severe sleep deprivation, enjoyed early potty learning tremendously and revels in parenting gently with boundaries and respect. Before becoming a mother she worked with new families, infants and children for 17 years including as a preschool teacher, postpartum doula, multiples infant nanny, life coach, and religious educator in Jewish, Buddhist and Christian settings. Moorea enjoys birding, snorkeling, travel, entertaining and crafting imperfectly.
This entry was posted in Breastfeeding, Political/Queer, Sleep. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Black and White: Race and the Co-Sleeping Wars

  1. Leah says:

    What a great post. Cora agrees and is happy to be breastfed and co-sleeping, I am sure.

  2. Lindsey says:

    Damn right! Well said.

  3. Love the post! Agree with you, as long as co-sleeping is done safely why the fuss?!

    ~ Jenny ( http://www.imafulltimemummy.com/ )

  4. GREAT POST!! Seriously, hands down the best one I have read so far in the carnival (and that’s quite a feat since they are all so great!). I cannot believe Crib Manufactuers are the ones tryingot fund the national ad campaign against cosleeping, no that doesn’t scream conflict of interest or anything like that.
    I LOVE all of your ideas!!

  5. “Because the main problem with these ads is not that they are shameful, false and rude. The main problem is that they won’t save babies.”
    Exactly. Mother shaming won’t solve any problems or advance any causes. Education and compassion will. Thank you for this post.

  6. Adrienne says:

    Wow. Such great points I hadn’t thought of— especially the one about the images not being shown together. Thank you for sharing.

  7. darah says:

    Here here! I would be so curious to know if the same number of each ad was run/printed or if there were more of one. Anyways – this was so well written. Nice work.

  8. Great post! I’d love to hear more about how to safely co-sleep without breastfeeding, because the truth is that it is going to happen. I do wish that the money put into this campaign was put towards breastfeeding awareness though. I’m in Oregon, with the second highest BF rates in the nation, and STILL I hardly know anyone who breastfed at all, let alone for 6 months or longer.

  9. Melissa Vose says:

    AWESOME POST. Very intelligent, well said, passionate, and informed. I’m in awe. Thank you!!! I just shared on FB and twitter!!! I’m your newest biggest fan… =)

  10. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why Pediatricians Suck « MamaLady

  11. Why is sleeping in a crib can be dangerous to a baby?

    • Alex says:

      do some research. There are many points against crib sleeping and also co-sleeping. However millions and millions of families around the world co-sleep. My husband is from one such country. When I was looking cribs on line… he asked what people use them for. ( he is kind of a nut.) Co-sleeping is such a normal part of like he didn’t ever thing of a crib at all.. Here is a link. I recommend reading some of the comments. http://www.earthclinic.com/CURES/SIDS.html

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  13. Pingback: Really High Beds, Co-Sleeping Safely, and the Humanity Family Sleeper Hybrid Rasta Mama

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