More States Are Giving Away Free Baby Boxes To Encourage Safe Sleep Habits

by Valerie Williams
Image via The Baby Box Co.

The box provides a safe place for an infant to sleep

A few months ago, pregnant parents in New Jersey got the exciting news that their state was partnering with The Baby Box Co. to give new parents a box full of baby goods for free. The best part? Each box doubles as a safe sleeping space for an infant.

Now, Ohio and Alabama have decided to follow New Jersey’s lead and offer the boxes to expecting parents in hopes of promoting safe sleep.

According to NPR, the boxes started 80 years ago in Finland, a country that boasts one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. The Baby Box Co. creates and distributes the boxes, which are also for sale to anyone who wants to buy one, but the states adopting the idea are offering them to parents for free, providing they watch videos about safe infant sleep practices.

The boxes are more than just a baby bed and include infant essentials such as breastfeeding accessories, a onesie, diapers and wipes. It also provides a firm foam mattress and tight-fitting sheet, both meant to fit in the box.

In Finland, the boxes are provided as long as a mom attends a pre-natal check-up before the end of their fourth month of pregnancy. Since it’s impossible in the U.S. to require doctor’s visits, states are relying on using the videos to spread safe sleep information to new parents.

Each video runs about 15-2o minutes and includes information from The American Academy of Pediatrics about safe sleep, advising parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, to use a firm mattress and to avoid using toys or soft bedding in the infant’s sleep space.

Dr. Kathryn McCans, chair of New Jersey’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, says, “The whole premise is that people like free things. It’s about getting the information out there.”

Dr. McCans explains the goal of the program is preventing SIDS. “Through education and awareness, people can make better choices and hopefully we can see fewer children dying.” Although the rate of SIDS deaths in the U.S. has declined drastically since 1994 when the Back to Sleep campaign spread the word about putting infants to sleep on their backs, it’s gone up slightly in recent years.

The hope is that the number of kids dying from SIDS will decrease in the states that make baby boxes free and available. In most cases, the boxes can accommodate a baby up to six months old and the SIDS rate is highest between months two and four.

There’s a study currently underway at Temple University to determine how effective the boxes might be, and the results will be available later this spring. It’s hard to believe that the boxes wouldn’t be helpful considering Finland’s results, so hopefully, it will lead to more states adopting the practice.