‘Baby Boxes’ Reducing Newborn Mortality Rates

By Mariuxi Mansfield
Staff Writer

New Jersey has become the first state in the nation to roll out a free “Baby Box” program to reduce rates of infant mortality, which is sometimes due to unsafe sleep practices.

They will provide “free baby box starter kits” with a mattress, waterproof cover and sheet, diapers, baby wipes, breast pads and nipple cream for breastfeeding mothers, and jumpsuit, in addition to other items for the mother and child.

This tradition started back in Finland in 1938 and for 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a Baby Box by the state.

At that time, Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high – 65 out of 1,000 babies died. At first, only low-income families would receive Baby Boxes, but by 1949, all newborns were entitled to receive a Baby Box.

Since then, the idea spread to the United Kingdom (even the Duchess of Cambridge used a Baby Box for their first child) and now, the trend is taking off in the U.S.

Why? Because the boxes have been proven to be an effective way to reduce the risk of infant death due to sleep-related causes, such as SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

The New Jersey Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board found that 93 percent of SIDS deaths in the state were directly related to sleep environments and partnered with the Baby Box Co., a California company, to provide 105,000 Baby Boxes this year to parents with newborns.

This program also received a grant for the project from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The ‘Baby Box program’ will help families make safe and healthy decisions for their children by educating them about simple changes that will decrease the risk of death due to an unsafe sleep environment or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” said Dr. Kathryn McCans, an emergency department physician at Cooper University Health Care in Camden.

The American Academic of Pediatrics recommends that the best place for a baby to sleep until 6 months of age is in the same room as the parents (but not the same bed). “With this box, it is easier for parents to make that happen. Plus, it can also be used for naps and playtime,” Bhargava said.

The American Academic of Pediatrics have launched a similar program in San Francisco.

“A Baby Box can help new parents have a simple solution of where the baby should sleep,” says Hansa Bhargava, MD, WebMD medical editor and expert pediatrician.

“Babies should always sleep on their back with no other items in the box,” Bhargava said.

The catch: Parents have to pass an online education program on infant health and safety before they register for a box. After that, they have free access to the website, where they can find tips and advice for raising newborns.

But this isn’t just an extra; it’s a necessary part of keeping your infant healthy, Bhargava said. “What I really like about this specific box is that it creates an easy way for parents to learn about how to take care of their babies. Parenting can be challenging, and any education can help prevent injuries and illness and keep baby healthy.”