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Editorial: Snappy slogan oversimplifies

There are a lot of good reasons for parents to follow the “safe sleeping” techniques for infants touted by the Albany County Safe Sleeping Task Force and County Executive Dan McCoy. The fact is, of the 12 infant deaths in the county attributed to unsafe sleeping over the past three years, the majority were caused by a parent accidentally smothering a child while co-sleeping – a tragedy that is easily preventable.

While declaring Wednesday, Sept. 18, Safe Sleep Day, the task force also unveiled the newest slogan in its outreach efforts: “ABC,” which stands for “Alone on their Backs in a Crib.” A good slogan is catchy and easy to remember, and this one certainly fits the bill. However, in reality, very little in parenting can be distilled down to something as simple as “ABC.” Decisions about how to best raise a child are based on far more nuanced details, and it would be wrong to assume that parents aren’t able to come to their own valid conclusions without the help of a snappy slogan.

On his Facebook page, McCoy has caught flak from some bed-sharing proponents who accused him of running a “smear campaign.” While this is hardly the case, parents who do co-sleep with their infants are feeling unnecessarily villainized. Even as they promoted their safe-sleeping recommendations, county officials acknowledged the reasons some parents choose to co-sleep with their infants. McCoy said the changing weather can prompt some parents to let their “babies sleep in their bed for warmth,” and Kathy Marsch, interim chief nursing officer at St. Peter’s, recognized the conflicting information about infant sleeping practices over the years has some parents confused. But both joined a number of other health professionals in calling bed sharing a dangerous practice.

It is easy to see that the county has the best interests of its very youngest residents in mind, but it does well to remember that their parents have their best interests in mind, too.

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