As part of a government initiative to address the growing incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the country, several U.S. states have reportedly started giving away free baby boxes to parents of newborn babies.
What Is A Baby Box?
The baby box initiative originally started in Finland in the later 1930s. During this period, one of out 10 Finnish babies died in their first year.
A sturdy, compact, cardboard box with SIDS-proof beddings — a firm foam mattress and tightly fitted sheets — the Finnish baby box also comes with a complete maternity package of about 50 baby items. These includes summer and winter clothes, diapers, a thermometer, toys, and other baby necessities. Mothers also have the option to convert it into cash instead and get somewhere around 140 euros, or $155.
Basically, an expectant mother only needs to take a medical exam during the first four months of her pregnancy in order to receive the free baby box from the government.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Although it sounds a little weird to make babies sleep in cardboards, the baby box is believed to be the reason behind Finland's success in reducing its cases of sudden infant death syndrome.
In fact, the Nordic country holds the record for the lowest infant mortality rate in the whole world — 2.52 for every 1,000 births, less than half that of the United States.
According to the data of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, in 2015 alone, there were about 3,700 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in the country.
Occurring among infants less than a year old, the most common types of SUIDS include sudden infant death syndrome (1,600 deaths), unknown causes (1,200 deaths), and accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed (900 deaths).
Getting The Word Out
Hundreds of thousands of baby boxes will be distributed in New Jersey (105,000 baby boxes), Ohio (140,000 baby boxes), and Alabama (60,000 baby boxes).
Compared to Finland, the U.S. version of the baby box is rather modest — containing only a few breastfeeding accessories, diapers, wipes, and a onesie. Nevertheless, with the same SIDS-proof beddings and the educational component, the program looks promising.
To qualify, parents need to watch online videos about SIDS and safe sleep and take a quiz after.
"The whole premise is that people like free things," Dr. Kathryn McCans, chair of New Jersey's Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, said.
"It's about getting the information out there. Through education and awareness, people can make better choices and hopefully we can see fewer children dying," McCans added.