Sunday, February 12, 2017 by Amy Goodrich
If you’re an expectant mom or a parent of an infant younger than three months in New Jersey, we have some good news. New Jersey is set to become the first U.S. state to adopt the successful Finnish system of sending out free baby boxes to new parents. Just like it has in Finland, experts believe it will help prevent infant deaths due to an unsafe sleep environment or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Since the 1930s, Finland has given new parents a special “baby box” that contains a firm mattress, a waterproof cover, and a fitted sheet that allows it to serve as the baby’s first bed. In addition to offering a safe sleeping space, the box also contains newborn essentials such as diapers, wipes, breast cream, a onesie, and an activity cart.
In the U.S., an estimated 3,500 deaths each year are attributed to SIDS and other sleep-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. Of these deaths, 44 percent are caused by sudden infant death, with 25 percent caused by accidental strangulation or suffocation. The aim of the online program is to make safe, healthy choices and decrease babies’ risk of death through educating parents and creating a safe sleeping environment.
New Jersey’s program, funded by a grant from the CDC, is expected to distribute about 105,000 of these free baby boxes – which is the anticipated number of births in New Jersey in 2017 – filled with about $150 in materials from the Baby Box Company.
To make the box, Baby Box Co., a California-based company, teamed up with New Jersey’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board. Initially, the Baby Box company started as a “baby shower in a box” product meant as a gift item from family and friends. After they had learned about the Nordic maternity box initiative, the company also integrated an educational platform into their box.
To get your hands on one of the free baby boxes, you must register at babyboxuniversity.com as a New Jersey resident and include valid contact information and mailing address. After completing a 10- to 15-minute program and a short quiz to get a certificate of completion, the baby box can be collected from the closest distribution partner, or it can be shipped to your home.
Data from the New Jersey Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board showed that approximately 93 percent of mortalities associated with Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) in 2016 were related to sleep and sleep environments. Dr. Kathryn McCans, an emergency department physician at Cooper University Health Care Hospital and chairwoman of the review board, said that a significant proportion of these deaths are due to unsafe sleep circumstances. Thus, raising awareness around sleep safety is a crucial part of the program’s mission.
Dr. Kathryn McCans, told Huffington Post that the important thing to remember about the baby box is the real prevention and education that comes with the box.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for a safe sleeping environment for newborns recommend parents to use a sleep surface such as a safety-approved crib, or firm mattress provided in a box, covered by a fitted sheet to prevent strangulation or suffocation. Furthermore, nothing should be covering a baby’s head. Blankets, crib bumpers, soft toys, and pillows should be kept out of the crib or box. Also, babies should be dressed in a one-piece sleeper, or onesie, and sleep without a blanket.
At the moment, the box will only be distributed in New Jersey. The Baby Box Company, however, is currently developing more statewide programs to make the boxes available nationally.