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New York Hospitals Pilot Program Gives New Moms 'Baby Box'

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Following the lead of a San Antonio hospital, which was the first in the U.S. to give away Baby Box starter kits to new mothers as part of a pilot program, two New York City hospitals gave away 100 free baby boxes to parents of newborns on Valentine's Day as part of a pilot program to assist in lowering the city's infant mortality rate.

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The cardboard boxes from California-based Baby Box Co. generally come with a lid, a fitted mini mattress, a waterproof mattress cover, one cotton sheet, a bag with product samples and coupons, and membership to Baby Box University—where parents can learn all kinds of early-parenting information. The basic box costs $69.99 and there are additional boxes that come with more products inside, ranging up to $225.

Babies are supposed to sleep inside the box for the first three to four months, or until they can pull themselves up—at which time they can be moved to a crib to sleep. After your baby gets too big for the box, the company suggests that it can be repurposed as a storage container or toy box.

In New York, black babies are between two and three times more likely to die as infants than white babies. And babies in poor neighborhoods were twice as likely to die as infants than babies in affluent neighborhoods.

Although New York's rate has shrunken by nearly a quarter since 2004, the city that never sleeps is still trying to educate parents about the dangers of sleeping with their newborns. The Administration for Children's Services even launched a Safe Sleep campaign aimed at New York City parents in April 2015. These baby boxes, which take a page from Finnish parenting methods, could help continue lowering the city's infant mortality rate.

Finnish baby boxes were introduced in 1938 to support low-income families, and they became available to all families in 1949. The country's infant mortality rate dropped dramatically after the boxes became more widely available to all new moms.

In New York, black babies are between two and three times more likely to die as infants than white babies. And babies in poor neighborhoods were twice as likely to die as infants than babies in affluent neighborhoods.

In 2014, the infant mortality rate was 3.36 deaths per 1,000 live births in Finland. In New York City, the rate was 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013.

The United States has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the developed world, at nearly 6 deaths per every 1,000 live births. According to the CDC, the states with the highest infant mortality rates include Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts have the lowest infant mortality rates.

Race and ethnicity also can play a factor. In 2013—the most recent year for which data is available through the National Vital Statistics System—research showed that black women had the highest rate at 11 deaths per 1,000 births, while Cuban women had the lowest rate at only 3 deaths per 1,000 births. Additionally, teen moms, moms older than 40 and unmarried women are also more at risk for having babies that are born preterm, with low birthweight or with birth defects.

According to the CDC, the top causes of infant deaths in the U.S. include congenital malformations, deformations or chromosomal abnormalities; disorders related to preterm births and low birthweight; and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

RELATED: How to Protect Your Newborn From SIDS

The United States has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the developed world, at nearly 6 deaths per every 1,000 live births.

In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents to ensure their babies sleep on their backs, and not on their stomachs, alone in a crib with no bedding. Since then, SIDS rates have fallen by 50 percent. Research has previously indicated that co-sleeping can increase the risk of SIDS.

So how does the U.S. rank against other countries when it comes to infant mortality rates?

According to CIA World Factbook data, countries with the lowest infant mortality rates in 2015 included Monaco (1.82 per 1,000), Iceland (2.06) and Japan (2.08). Finland had the seventh lowest rate at 2.52 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The U.S. doesn't rank as one of the top 10 countries or territories with the lowest rates of infant mortality for 2015—in fact, it doesn't even rank in the top 50. The countries with the highest infant mortality rates in 2015 were Afghanistan (115.08 per 1,000), Mali (102.23), and Somalia (98.39).

Other countries that have jumped on the bandwagon of using the baby box to promote safe sleeping for newborns include Colombia, Argentina, South Africa and Zambia.

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