Peloton is the exercise king of COVID times. With folks stuck at home, the fancy bike won 2020 and kept thousands of us from melting into our couches.
I write this as a fan of Peloton, I like exercise. But more than my appreciation for slick exercise equipment and sleek ad spots, I’m interested in keeping babies safe and alive. I wish I could watch this Peloton ad and feel inspired to sweat and go about my day.
But, the ad in which a baby is lying in a crib surrounded by bumpers, blankets and pillows is dangerous.
Peloton’s commitment to a healthy body and mind won’t mean a whole lot if the baby at the beginning of the spot dies in an unsafe sleep environment. Dead babies can’t grow up to ride exercise bikes.
How bad is it?
Really bad. More babies die every year from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) than all 0-21 year olds die from car accidents, gun violence, suicide and drug abuse.*
Approximately 3,700 infants die of SUID each year in the United States —that’s one baby every two hours. Even sadder, these deaths are largely preventable - with most having died with at least one modifiable unsafe sleep risk factor.**
In this Peloton ad, the baby is up against high environmental risk factors: sleeping in a full crib, surrounded by stuffed animals with blankets and bumpers.
It’s Time to Wake Up
So, here’s what I want to ask the creatives at Peloton. Would it make a difference if the baby was asleep in an empty crib? Would it have changed the message? Would you still sell high-end stationary bikes? Would you receive any less admiration or support for your awesome product?
Advertisers wouldn’t dream of placing an infant in the back of a moving car without a car seat. They wouldn’t show infants floating in a pool without a life jacket or parents nearby. They wouldn’t put a five-year-old on a bike without a helmet. Yet, these same advertisers think nothing of placing an infant at risk in an unsafe sleeping environment. It’s time for marketers to get acquainted with safety standards, and wake up so more babies have a chance to.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies sleep Alone (in their own environment free of blankets, pillows and people), on their Back, in a CRIB for every single sleep.*** Any tired parent knows that following this advice takes strength, guts and motivation. A single encounter that justifies an unsafe practice can lead to weakening resolve and devastating consequences.
Not convinced? Ask my friends Maura and Sam Hanke. They lost their son Charlie at just three weeks old when Sam laid down on the couch with him asleep on his chest. Sam woke up, Charlie didn’t. Unsafe sleep choices happen in split second decisions by exhausted parents. Normalizing any kind of unsafe behavior, like placing a baby in a crib surrounded by soft bedding, puts more infants at risk.
I am one of many safe sleep advocates motivated by grief and loss. I am sick and tired of having to explain basic infant sleep safety to ad makers that have a cute idea. What ad makers don’t realize is the impact of their creative decisions is heavy and far reaching.
Advertisers Put Infants At Risk
A company, like Peloton - considered a health industry leader - has the opportunity to influence millions. With their incredible reach, their advertising has big impact. Showing a baby in an unsafe environment tells millions of parents that it’s ok.
So says the AAP. In its guidelines for a safe sleep environment, the AAP recommends that media, companies, and other organizations follow safe sleep guidelines in their messaging and advertising. The AAP, in making this recommendation, cited research on the impact of media exposures, advertising, and store displays on individual behavior by influencing beliefs and attitudes. The images portraying unsafe sleep practices may create misinformation among parents and other infant caregivers, thus putting infants at risk.***
Parenting and safe sleep are hard enough. We need allies. If safe sleep advocacy isn’t in a company’s marketing niche, that’s ok. We just kindly ask they don't make our job harder. Decision makers should know what is safe and stop the accidental commentary on what is normal and permissible, especially when it is unsafe. Safe sleep is and should be everyone’s business.
Peloton, you go first. Show this baby in the correct sleep environment. PLEASE. This ad and your commitment to health and well-being would be even more powerful if baby was safe.
Use your voice to encourage Peloton to edit their ad. Sign the petition here.
*CDC Wonder Data, Image created by Bill Rapp
**Shapiro-Mendoza CK, Camperlengo L, Ludvigsen R, Cottengim C, Anderson RN,
Andrew T, et al. Classification system for the sudden unexpected infant death case registry and its application. Pediatrics. 2014;134(1):e210-e9.
***AAP Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Moon RY. 2016. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics 138(5): e20162938 (policy statement); e20162940 (technical report).