On April 2, the Love What Matters Facebook page uploaded an image taken by David Brinkley. The photo shows his wife lying in bed with their two children, one of whom is a baby.
“Recently [my wife] was talking to a friend and they were talking about this thing called ‘co-sleeping’ and I heard the other person ask ‘Doesn’t your husband hate that? My husband would never let me do that,'” Brinkley wrote.
“So I just decided to come out as a man and set a few things straight,” he continued. “I do NOT hate any part of what makes my wife the mother that she is. I would NEVER degrade or disregard anything that she feels like doing for my children. Do I have to squeeze into a small corner of the bed sometimes? Yeah? But my God how beautiful does she look holding my children?”
The post has since been liked over 129,000 times and shared more than 27,500 times. It has also received over 5,000 comments, with users arguing about whether it’s wise — or even safe — for parents to share a bed with their kids.
“This is dangerous for the baby,” one user wrote, according to CBS News. “Babies should sleep alone, on their back, in a crib. Remember the A< B< Cs of safe sleep.”
“Co-sleeping is not safe,” a fellow user agreed. “Children get rolled on all of the time, and this type of behavior creates children who can’t sleep on their own without touch!”
But others pushed back in favor of the practice.
“Co-sleeping happened for thousands of years until we became a ‘civilized’ society and put the kids at the other end of the house!” one person commented.
A number of experts have since weighed in on the subject.
“First of all, you can’t argue with [Brinkley’s] sentiment and his support of his wife. That was so sweet,” Susan Castellano, maternal and child health director at the Minnesota Department of Health, told CBS News. “But I think the danger is that we do know co-sleeping can end in infant death. It does. It happens all the time.”
According to CBS News, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that around 3,500 babies die every year in sleep-related incidents. AAP recommends that babies sleep on their backs on a firm mattress without any pillows or blankets nearby, as such items can increase the risk of suffocation. AAP advises against parents sleeping in the same bed as their babies.
But other experts are not convinced. Dr. James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, said co-sleeping is unfairly criticized.
“You have to go out of your way to make it dangerous,” he said. “No matter how many warnings or misrepresentations of inherent dangers moms and babies find themselves. Babies have always slept and always will sleep next to their mothers.”
He added that he is an advocate of “breastsleeping,” whereby mothers nurse their babies while lying next to them in bed.
After Brinkley’s post went viral, his wife, Alora, responded to the criticism she received with a Facebook post of her own.
“My husband supervised this entire experience and made it possible for me to comfortably lay with them both like this as he very lovingly and carefully watched over us,” she wrote. “We would never put our children in a dangerous situation and our night time sleeping looks completely different than this.”
“We live in a very political time and an overly aggressive society,” she added. “To say hurtful things just because you don’t like a picture or don’t like a post that you didn’t have to read in the first place is just an unnecessary waste of time.”