Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Benjamin Campbell

Committee Members

Joseph P. Gray, Paul Brodwin


Bedsharing, Bed Sharing, Cosleeping, Co-sleeping, Infant Mortality, Milwaukee


In 2011, the city of Milwaukee launched a controversial public service campaign intended to minimize infant deaths by highlighting the dangers of cosleeping. In Wisconsin, about 28% of mothers bedshare with their infants, with the highest rates among women of color, averaging about 40% (Wisconsin Department of Health Services 2014). These data suggest that multiple knowledge systems might exist in the domain of infant care. This thesis proposes that Milwaukee’s current campaign is based in biomedicine, the predominant knowledge system surrounding infant care. Yet, its target demographic (cosleeping families) may not subscribe as strictly to a biomedical system of knowledge, and in turn may be more likely to reject the campaign.

It was hypothesized that mothers who accepted other fundamentals of a biomedical knowledge system would also be more likely to reject cosleeping behaviors and more likely to accept Milwaukee’s safe sleep message. Similarly, I expected women who did not exhibit strictly biomedical-endorsed behaviors to be more likely to cosleep and less likely to accept the anti-cosleeping message.

To test these research questions, a survey was administered to Milwaukee-area mothers in order to assess 1) a respondent’s behaviors relating to biomedicine and infant care, 2) a respondent’s attitudes and behaviors regarding bedsharing, and 3) whether Milwaukee’s campaign was successful in changing any attitudes surrounding cosleeping.

Neither research hypothesis (relating to either bedsharing behavior or ad campaign reception) could be accepted. No relationship was found between biomedical adherence and bedsharing behaviors, attitudes, or likelihood of Milwaukee’s advertisements to change minds. However, a mother was less likely to bedshare if she believed it to be dangerous or if Milwaukee’s safe sleep campaign changed her mind. Attitudes towards bedsharing were strongly predicted by whether the advertisements changed minds.