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AIBU complaining about an advert-trigger warning

(38 Posts)
hairycatmum Mon 13-Nov-17 23:59:44

Trigger warning-this is about risks of cot death.

I really don't want to upset anyone, so please don't read on if you might be upset about discussion of sudden infant death.

There's an advert on at the moment for the British Gas Hive-there is a young man leaning back in an armchair with his baby, and he's turning the lights off and the heating up with a remote control device so the baby will settle.

My day job-I'm a paediatric and perinatal pathologist. As part of my role I investigate sudden and unexpected infant deaths (SIDS, SUDI deaths). It is well known that co-sleeping in an armchair or on the sofa is far more dangerous than co-sleeping in a bed. There is a 50 fold increased risk of sudden death when the parent falls asleep in an armchair. The department of health, the royal college of paediatrics and child health, the American Academy of Pediatrics and numerous other bodies and organisations explicitly warn against co-sleeping in an armchair or on a sofa with a young baby.

Co-sleeping in a bed can be planned and the environment made much safer, but co-sleeping in an armchair is usually unplanned and unintentional. Every year I get a handful of cases in precisely this scenario-parent settles with baby for a moment on the sofa or armchair and falls asleep, its completely accidental and a horrible, devastating accident.

So, I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority asking them to investigate-IMO the advert shows something that could be potentially dangerous. Their response was that the advert did not imply that the dad was going to sleep there with the baby all night and rejected the complaint. The problem is, it doesn't take the baby to sleep like that with the dad all night, I've had cases where the parent nodded off for 15 minutes and woke up to their wee babe being smothered accidentally.

ASA won't investigate further-in their response they said that there had been some other complainers. I've emailed British Gas directly. I feel really strongly about this, but that's probably because I see the end result, and I would hate for any parent to watch that advert and then settle with their baby like that.

Geordielassinacoat Tue 14-Nov-17 00:09:10

Well done for complaining, and then for taking it up with British Gas directly. I haven't seen the advert but am aware of the evidence and agree it is modelling something potentially dangerous. Good luck.

Floralnomad Tue 14-Nov-17 00:16:57

I’ve seen the advert and agree it’s a dangerous thing to promote, the fact that they don’t imply he is going to sleep all night there is neither here nor there , most people who suffocate their babies by sleeping on settees and armchairs with them probably never intended to fall asleep .

Seeingadistance Tue 14-Nov-17 00:37:03

I haven't seen the advert, but I am very glad that you complained and disappointed that your voice of, sad and tragic, experience has been ignored.

Do you think you could raise this with the professional bodies you mentioned, and urge them to make official complaints? They may pay more attention to large, official organisations than to an individual, even though you are saying the same thing.

Bue Tue 14-Nov-17 00:38:32

I understand where you're coming from but having just watched the ad I think YABU. The dad is fully awake at the end of the ad, actively and alertly watching the baby and has obviously turned the lights off to get the baby to settle. By the reasoning that most cases happen when the parent falls asleep accidentally, all ads should be banned that feature a parent holding a baby while sitting in a chair...

BertieBotts Tue 14-Nov-17 00:51:49

OP I think you are right. It's unlikely that somebody is going to see the advert and think "Ooh, what a great idea, I've never thought of sitting in a comfortable chair with my baby before!" but these kinds of images are common and it all helps to build a familiar snuggly image of babyhood which we'll naturally recreate, where we really should be challenging imagery which promotes dangerous behaviour. Lots of people don't actually know that it's unsafe even to nap with a baby on a sofa. They assume that the advice applies only to night time sleep.

It is different to e.g. a formula ad where the parent is feeding the baby sitting in a comfy chair but the scene is all happy and bright and active.

I would also not object to an ad which showed safe co-sleeping behaviour, or a parent cuddling a baby in a situation where the parent was clearly alert and active, not relaxed and cosy. And yes, I see the point that the dad does look alert to begin with but it's the fade out at the end. (In reality you probably wouldn't turn the lights and TV off if you were planning to stay awake yourself!)

I've just watched it and I can absolutely see what message the ad team are going for, I would believe they didn't have any particular draw to show dangerous behaviour, but with your perspective it does actually come across as quite sinister sad

Found for anyone else who wants to watch:

hairycatmum Tue 14-Nov-17 00:56:45

Bue-my reasoning was that even though the dad is awake while he's turning the lights off and the heat up, he's reclining and making himself comfortable. That implies they are resting and potentially could fall asleep-he's got no distraction and not doing anything else.

Its different if you're sitting in a chair with the baby and doing something else. If you're holding your baby whilst doing something else, like reading or eating. it doesn't really matter if you're in an armchair for that because you're not likely to be falling asleep.

Seeingadistance Tue 14-Nov-17 01:20:38

Lights off and heating on, while cosy in a comfy chair make it more likely that someone will doze off, though. And as the OP says, even a short nap can have tragic consequences. So the ad is depicting that scenario, and advertising the ease with which parents can get themselves into such a situation.

And yes, no doubt completely inadvertently, but the unintended consequences could be horrific.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 14-Nov-17 01:27:50

The dad is fully awake at the end of the ad, actively and alertly watching the baby and has obviously turned the lights off to get the baby to settle

Well that was not how I interpreted it. He is in the dark with his head nodding forward. To me he looks as if he is settling down for a nap.

The baby had already fallen asleep with the lights and television on- why switch them off?

Crispbutty Tue 14-Nov-17 01:37:49

It doesn't look to me like he is about to nod off. Just settling a baby to sleep.

Motoko Tue 14-Nov-17 01:51:35

The ASA are fucking useless. My husband emailed them about those baby wipes that are mostly water. The advert said they were chemical free, when basic chemistry teaches that everything is a chemical.

They rejected his complaint saying that people understand the term 'chemical free' to mean no harmful chemicals. I have to say, that's not been my experience, plenty of people see a chemical name and think it must be bad. (Like that Dihydrogen Monoxide meme shows!)

I hope you get a better response from British Gas.

SomehowSomewhere1 Tue 14-Nov-17 01:54:44

I agree with OP, I saw the advert the other day and felt exactly the same. It’s working against everything safe sleeping promoters are trying to achieve.

Chrys2017 Tue 14-Nov-17 03:17:23

The fact that the narrator says "Sweet dreams" at the end implies to me that "Dad" is about to nod off.

Myanna Tue 14-Nov-17 05:15:52

I know this isn't your point but can you explain why it's so dangerous?
Is it because the baby could slide into the corner of the chair/sofa and suffocate?
I'm asking because I'm about to have my second baby and I'm sure the first time around we did sometimes inadvertently fall asleep on sofas through exhaustion.

BertieBotts Tue 14-Nov-17 08:25:13

Myanna - yes, but I think not only the corners - soft chairs are really made of lots of suffocation risk type of surfaces! The other risk is that they fall from your arms onto the floor which is quite a distance for a newborn.

If you feel you might not be able to avoid falling asleep with your baby (it happens) it's much safer to create a safe space in your bed to facilitate this, even if you don't want to co-sleep full time.

AuntyElle Tue 14-Nov-17 11:29:40

Well done for pursuing this, OP. Reflects appallingly on British Gas and the ASA.

Floralnomad Tue 14-Nov-17 11:32:30

The fact that he waits until the baby is asleep to turn off the lights and turn up the heating infers that he is getting comfy for a long stay ie may fall asleep. Surely if you are just trying to settle the baby you would do all that first or like me teach them to sleep with lights and TVs on .

Justbookedasummmerholiday Tue 14-Nov-17 11:37:36

An old friend did indeed lose her precious dd after falling asleep in a chair for a few mins.
Irresponsible ad imo.

strangeEvents Tue 14-Nov-17 11:49:54

It's important that absolutely everything on TV has at least one person complain about it. Outraged from Stockport-on-Tweed

I'm currently crafting a letter as I saw an advert clearly showing it was acceptable for anyone to drive a flying sled without a seatbelt and after drinking sherry in every house they visit!

FeralBeryl Tue 14-Nov-17 12:01:12

Your thoughts mirror mine when I first saw this.
Yes, it shows the dad awake. But... show me any new, exhausted parent trying to settle a baby who then turns up the heat, turns down the light manage to stay awake. Humanly impossible wink
It's irresponsible.

ForgivenessIsDivine Tue 14-Nov-17 12:35:21

I would suggest that you approach your professional organisation to respond to the advert, as well as the other organisations you mention above. Bombard them with research and risk factors. Send it to British Gas and Hive (I know they are the same) and hopefully it will land on someone's desk who rethinks this. If you can find out which agency filmed the advert, send it to them too.

hairycatmum Tue 14-Nov-17 13:05:41

Myanna-co sleeping is a very contentious issue. The Dept of Health advice is not to sleep with your baby until they are at least 6 months of age as there is an association between co-sleeping and sudden infant death. However, its very complicated-you can make the sleeping environment safer and modify your risk. So, for example, if you have a firm mattress, no big pillows, keep the room cool and most of all don't smoke, don't drink alcohol and don't have any sedative medication in your system, you can reduce that risk. So for many families it is a considered choice that works for them.

But, co-sleeping on the sofa or a chair usually isn't a considered choice, and this is the scenario I see most frequently. It's probably a positional issue-there isn't as much room in a chair or the sofa so the relative positions of adult and baby mean that the adult may overlay the baby, or obstruct its breathing with their body in some way. The baby could roll in the crook of the adults arm and end up with their face pressed against clothing or the body of the chair, or get trapped between the adult and the back of the sofa-this causes compression of the baby's chest and prevents them breathing (it's called wedging and is a form of asphyxiation).

There's also issues of overheating-chairs and sofas are in the living room usually, and this is normally a little warmer than a bed room. Add in the very close position of adult and baby, probably closer than they would be in bed, and overheating happens.

Some of the cases I've seen have been heart-breaking. I have had a case where a dad lay on his back on the sofa and put the baby on his chest. He clamped his hands across the baby's chest to stop the baby rolling off, but didn't realise that the weight of his hands whilst asleep prevented the tiny baby from breathing. He fell asleep, his hands slumped on the baby's chest and they simply couldn't inflate their chest-entirely unintentional but lethal. Another case was a dad who took baby downstairs to get them settled, and he fell asleep with the baby on the sofa. In the morning, mum came downstairs and discovered the baby trapped beneath the dad's legs face down-the relative movements of the dad's body during sleep had nudged the baby into a dangerous position. In a bed, this can still happen but its likely that its more dangerous in a chair or sofa because there is less space to move in, so your movements are more likely to interfere with the baby's position.

MayFayner Tue 14-Nov-17 13:10:19

I agree. I saw this ad and thought the same thing.

WillowWeeping Tue 14-Nov-17 13:15:17

I interpreted it exactly the same way - i think it's incredibly dangerous

AppleTrayBake Tue 14-Nov-17 13:30:05

First time I saw this ad, I thought it was a public health announcement against sleeping while holding a baby!

Completely agree with you OP.

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