The purpose of saying something controversial is to have a dialogue — hopefully a dialogue that makes a positive difference in the world.

In other words, you hope someone will change their mind. Sometimes that someone is yourself.

Last week I posted an article expressing shock that people leave babies in the car, and saying those people are unfit to be parents. Because I posted that article, people corrected me, explaining that studies on the matter have determined a combination of factors that cause this horrifying behavior.

I apologize. I was not well-informed enough about this phenomenon. Now that I’m informed, I realize I was out of line.

I also think we need a more effective solution than what’s being done right now.

It’s still the wrong solution

Apparently, the people who write the public service announcements are either in the same boat (not well-informed), or not considering an effective solution to the problem.

According to the research cited, people forget their babies when they have a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine. In other words, if you wanted to write an effective Public Service Announcement (PSA), it would go something like this:

  • Are you stressed out and not getting enough sleep? Did you change your routine today? If so, your baby may be in danger. Take a taxi instead of driving. 

Or

  • Do you have a friend who is overwhelmed with their parenting duties, who isn’t getting enough sleep, and who doesn’t have a regular routine for caring for their baby? The baby may be in danger. Call this number for help.

In other words, we should be treating this the same way we treat drunk driving or fatigued driving.

What kind of help?
In my previous post, I said we should help people not have more children, if they are in a situation where they are unable to care for them. I stand by that statement.

I said we should take small children away from them. I stand corrected and apologize for that. Instead, we should get them the help they need to make lifestyle adjustments so they can get enough sleep and reduce their stress.

I didn’t say we should sterilize anyone. I stand by that. We shouldn’t.

What do I mean by help? I think we all have heard of situations where a family is too strained to handle more children. This may be a temporary situation, where they might be able to handle more children in another year or 3 years, but right now, they cannot.

For such families, help might mean asking a rabbi for permission not to have more children. If we know that a baby might be in danger of dying, because of this phenomenon, then it would be OK to have a special permission from the rabbi, in such circumstances, to allow a family to wait a certain amount of time before having more children.

I don’t think this is a radical proposal. 

Some families might need a medical adviser or family therapist as well, to help them through a stressful time. In some families, there may be other factors, such as lack of education about family planning, sleep apnea, or who knows what else.

If we start by identifying people who are under so much stress and sleep deprivation that this danger exists, we are making a good start, not just to prevent children from dying, but also to have healthier families altogether. If we have the guts to tell them to seek professional help, and to see to it that they get help, we are making a difference in many people’s lives.

We’re all sleep deprived
I know that everyone with a new baby is sleep deprived, highly emotional and under stress. I’ve had 2 under 2, and I’ve been there.

Still, I think that most of us can distinguish between the difference between the regular amount of stress and an overbearing amount of stress and fatigue. I recently went through a health issue that caused me to have similar problems, and several people around me made sure I got to the doctor, plus I informed the people who live with me to be extra vigilant. I knew this was not “regular” fatigue, and I made sure to take extra measures to be careful, and to get help, both medical help and help from the people around me just to get through the day without forgetting the important things.

We can be responsible for both ourselves and the people around us, as a society, and we can get help. Just like we can tell someone who is drunk not to drive, we can tell someone who is fatigued not to drive. There is no shame in that, and it should become part of our culture.