Barrett’s co-sleeping red herring
According to a report released by the City of Milwaukee, Singapore has the lowest infant mortality rate on earth, at just over 2 per 1,000 live births. In our town, around 10.4 infants per 1,000 live births will die. The number breaks down further to about 5 white babies, 13 Hispanic babies and 14 African American babies, proportionally.
Interestingly, in Singapore, 73% of children commonly sleep with their parents. In the U.S. it’s hard to find good data, though one reputable study reports the number at 15%. Around the world, about 65% of families co-sleep at least some of the time, and most countries have lower infant mortality rates than Milwaukee’s goal of 10%.
But I’m jumping ahead. That same report – the City of Milwaukee’s 2010 Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) – cited six major risk factors in our city’s radically high baby death numbers. Two of them accounted for about 73% of infant mortality. Neither of those was co-sleeping. And the sixth factor was “Other.”
According to the FIMR, “over half of Milwaukee’s infant mortality crisis depends on how poor the mother and her family are, what the family’s wages are, if the family owns a home and how much that home is worth, and how much education the mother has.” In other words, if you’re poor, and especially if you’re poor and black, your babies are almost three times as likely to die than if you’re white and your zip code is 53211.
But let’s not let the facts obscure the message. Over at City Hall, the Mayor and his embattled crew, unable to impact a failing school system or fix high unemployment and a simply awful budget, latched on to the first headline-grabbing, high-profile distraction that came along: a direct response to the Journal Sentinel’s year-long assault on co-sleeping and the obvious correlation between taking your baby to bed and killing it. Never mind that most of the adults involved were uneducated, intoxicated, overweight and/or smokers who fell asleep on overly-soft couches and mattresses and rolled over on their children. The common factor is clear: all of them were sleeping! Never mind that an average of four of the six factors were present in each death. Case closed.
And the message is … Pay no attention to the truth behind the curtain. The fact that over 85% of infant deaths in Milwaukee are caused by substandard (or no) medical care in just a handful of zip codes is unimportant when you can see that we lumped three factors (SIDS, suffocation and overlay) into one generic number we like to call “18% of infant deaths are caused by co-sleeping!” So call the City and get your free Pack ‘n Play right now, or the death of your child will be on your head alone.
It’s disgusting, really. The City of Milwaukee ought to be ashamed of itself for preying on the fears of parents everywhere. This is reactionary at best, an intentional red herring of the most despicable kind at worst.
Personally, Tom, I like you a lot. You’re a smart man with a good heart, if not always the strongest will of your own, and I hope we still chat at the grocery store after you read today’s Bad Democrat. But this is really over the top. You know the answer isn’t free cribs and butcher knives, but ready access to quality health care and an across-the-board increase in prosperity you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of effecting any time soon, through little fault of your own. Besides, people are going to sleep with their kids if they’re so inclined, and that’s simply not going to change, no matter how many pull-quote “testimonials” to the contrary you pepper into that report of yours.
You want to help? Do something meaningful with MPS. Find a way to make your budget work without cutting vital services. Muzzle the bickering on the Common Council floor. Heck, solve world hunger while you’re at it. But for god’s sake, man, pull those ads.
For last week’s Bad Democrat on the Walker recall, click here.