A few years ago, Americans discovered Finland's best-kept postpartum secret: the Finnish Baby Box. For the last 75 years, expectant parents there receive baby starter kits in the mail: onesies, snowsuits, PJs, and other baby stuff inside a sturdy cardboard box that is lined with a mattress and bedding.
We swooned. We envied. We wished we had thought of it.
Well, the people behind California-based The Baby Box Co. did think of something, and now they're set to launch a universal baby box program designed to reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and improve family healthcare. They've joined forces with New Jersey's Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board to distribute roughly 105,000 free boxes to expecting parents in the state this year.
Their industrial-strength cardboard boxes, distributed at Cooper University Healthcare and Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, double as a bassinet and include all essentials to care for baby: a firm mattress and fitted sheet, a waterproof cover, baby wipes, nipple cream, breast pads, a onesie and an activity cart.
According to CEO and co-founder Jennifer Clary, the Baby Box Co. originally started as a gifting concept for baby showers. But after visiting Finland and discovering their low infant mortality rate, the company decided to repackage their gift into an educational presentation for new parents.
Before receiving a box, expecting parents and those with infants younger than 3 months must first complete the Baby Box University, an online parenthood preparedness course. The program lasts 10 to 15 minutes and is followed by a short quiz on childcare and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome prevention. Those hoping to bring home a box must provide a certificate of completion and valid contact information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts around 3,500 newborn deaths from Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths and other sleep-related deaths in the U.S. each year. In New Jersey last year, 93 percent of infant fatalities were related to sleep and sleep environments associated with SUID. Organizers believe that educating parents on certain sleeping dangers—and holding them accountable—will encourage parents to make better choices when it comes to caring for their newborn.
Dr. Kathryn McCans, an emergency department physician at Cooper University Healthcare and chairwoman of the review board, recently shared her experience with SUID cases in New Jersey.
"Every year we review instances in which infants die suddenly and unexpectedly. In a significant proportion of these deaths, an unsafe sleep circumstance is a contributing factor."
Though it is tempting to cuddle in bed with a newborn, the guidelines submitted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggest otherwise. The safest sleep place for a baby is on a firm mattress, positioned on their back, with no loose items nearby (e.g., bedding, crib bumpers, pillows and soft toys). Additionally, parents should dress infants in a one-piece sleeper and never allow them to sleep in an adult bed, chair or couch with another person.
Though the Garden State was the first in the country to offer baby boxes, it hasn't taken long for others to follow suit. In an October 2016 blog post, organizers in San Francisco partnered with local organizations and distribution centers to add their name to the list.
Surely, the rest of the U.S. will not be far behind.