BABY BOXES TAKE ROOT IN U.S.
Sleep safety programme expanded to reduce sudden unexpected infant deaths
CARDBOARD boxes aren’t new technology. But when linked to a practice that started in Finland decades ago to help babies sleep safely, it takes on a new purpose as so-called “baby boxes” make their way to the United States.
Parents are taking baby boxes home from hospitals along with their newborns.
A Los Angeles-based company has partnered with health officials to give the boxes away for free and an online initiative offers advice to reduce sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID).
New Jersey and Ohio were the first to participate in the programme.
“To new mums: (SUID) was one of my biggest fears and then it happened,” said Chauntia Williams, 35, of Ohio.
She is an advocate for safe sleeping and the boxes after she lost her 33-day-old daughter, Aaliyah, nine years ago.
Williams said her daughter went to sleep in a crib with cushiony bumpers, stuffed animals and an added blanket beneath the fitted sheet and never woke up.
She said the coroner determined the bedding caused the death. She now uses a box with her son, Bryce. Her message to new parents: educate yourselves on safe sleep habits.
SUID includes sudden infant death syndrome and accidental suffocation and strangulation from overcrowded bassinets or cribs. Health officials said the boxes were a useful part of a safesleep education programme.
The state of Ohio on Wednesday joined New Jersey in offering the cardboard boxes, which double as bassinets, for free. Each box comes with a mattress, fitted sheet, onesie and diapers.
The idea for baby boxes started in Finland in the 1930s, and is tied to a sharp drop in sudden infant deaths, said paediatrician Dr Kathryn McCans.
The boxes provided a clutterfree sleep space that reduced accidental and unexpected deaths.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of SUID in the US had declined since the 1990s, when officials began recommending parents put infants to sleep on their backs.
About 3,700 sudden infant deaths were reported in the country in 2015.
The boxes were a new idea for many Americans.
“The thought of putting the baby in a box was weird,” said Dolores Peterson, who was among the first to bring home a box.
Peterson’s daughter, Ariabella, is 3-months old.
She said the programme was eye-opening for how much she learned about how to prevent sudden unexpected infant death.
Dr McCans said the complimentary items, like diapers and onesies, were nice, but the important objective was bringing down infant deaths and grounding parents on safe sleep practices — placing babies on their backs to sleep; not using bumpers in cribs; keep stuffed animals and blankets out of infants’ sleep spaces and avoid sleeping in the same bed as infants.
“No one brings their baby into bed with them because they want their baby to die,” she said.
“They do it because they want to be nurturing and they are, but it’s not safe.”
To get the boxes, prospective mums could register through babyboxuniversity.com, watch a handful of videos on sleep safety and pass a quiz.
Parents could then take their digital or printed-out certificates to a participating hospital for their boxes.
Dolores Peterson and daughter, Ariabella, at their home in Camden, New Jersey. New Jersey became the first US state to send newborn babies home with a box that doubles as a crib.